Today is International Literacy day ~ How important is it to learn to read?

International Literacy day.

Learning to Read – How important is it?

By Sylvia McGrath

September is here and most children are now back at school, and ready to learn new things. Professor Owl’s Book corner cannot emphasize enough how important it is to learn and love to read. Ever since I can remember, I have always loved books. There was nothing like losing myself in a book. In fact, I cannot even remember when or how, but I was very young when I learned to read. My father was an avid reader and did everything to encourage me to read also. In my early years, we had an old gentleman who lived next door to us called Mr. Sheppard however, I always called him “Sheppy”.  He too would encourage me to read everything I could get my hands on. ‘Sheppy’ also had a huge library full of books and would give them to me to read; some of them I still have today such as a book of Long Fellows’ poems, Black Beauty and Ivanhoe. He really made sure I received and was able to read all of the classic books early in my life. Sheppy was also a great scholar and had travelled to many lands and he just loved to tell me the stories of his journeys.
Over the years my reading has helped me succeed in several managerial positions. I have had so much enjoyment and have gained knowledge on many things due to my love of books.
A few years ago I met a boy who was fourteen years old. When we met him, he could barely function in school because he could hardly read at all. Due to his family situation, he lived with my husband and I for about six months, during which time, I started teaching him to read and interact with programs that were set up by his teachers. He had somehow fallen between the cracks. I am pleased to say by the time he returned home he could read at a higher level.
A few months later, our local learning centre was looking for volunteer literary tutors. My success with this boy encouraged me to take a course and volunteer at the centre. I found this most rewarding for several years and hopefully helped some young people along the way until I moved to another town last year.
I cannot stress enough how, learning to read is incredibly important. Without that basic skill, people can be effectively “left behind” in society, which can lead to a struggle for social and financial survival. For some of my students it really changed their lives.
If you know of a child or young adult who is unable to read at an acceptable level (for their age), I advise you to speak with that person or the person’s parents to get literacy help.
To assist you in making your points when explaining literacy’s role in everyday life, here are some facts and thoughts:

Without the ability to read, men and women cannot hope to obtain employment that offers much chance of advancement. Employers of many jobs that are low in terms of pay scale such as a server in a restaurant or a clerk in a retail store, require that the employee knows how to read and write.

Most schools operate on the theory that (when a child reaches a certain age) they will be literate. Those who cannot keep up early in their education may find that they are never able to “catch up” without serious intervention and certainly do fall between the cracks.

Being illiterate may cause embarrassment and contribute to feelings of low self-esteem. Therefore, it can be incredibly difficult for teens and adults to reach out and get the reading help they desperately need even if they want to because of defined notions and stigmas.

Without the skills to read and write, a person could have significant difficulties in day-to-day living. For example, those who are illiterate often have trouble understanding how often to take medicines as well as how much to take at a time. The outcome of such scenario could literally be dangerous.

Being unable to read could push a child away from making friends, in so doing causing him or her to adopt a life of self-generated isolation. Without a peer group, he or she may be uncomfortable in the company of others.

Traveling is very hard for those persons who cannot read or write. This means that an illiterate person may have little opportunity to explore new cultures, thus keeping him or her from experiential learning.

Children who have difficulty reading and/or are told that they are “illiterate” often stop wanting to try to read. Consequently, staying positive is critical to overall success, even if you are a parent who is frustrated by your child’s inability to learn.

Books, magazines, poems and plays have the ability to transport readers to other places and times. However, if a man, woman or youngster is unable partake of this enjoyable pastime, they may be denied the opportunity to travel to faraway places.

Vast studies have found that a high percentage of those who are imprisoned have difficulties reading (or are reading at a very low level for their ages). The strong connection between crime and illiteracy has been well-established, and relapse rates seem to decrease when prisoners attend literacy programs offered by correctional institutions

Reading is so very important for everyone and for many reasons. From a very early age we are encouraged to read. Our parents and teachers start out reading great little stories from the colorfully illustrated pages of a book. The need for the ability to read is bigger than any one can imagine. Although some of the lessons we learn in school will never be used again reading however, is not one of them. We all will all use this skill in our lives. This amazing power of the mind will be exercised daily.

We cannot be taught what to enjoy. That part is very personal and exclusive to each individual. Reading gives us great and never ending authority over our lives.

To obtain more information – please contact the following organizations,

Canadian Literacy and Learning Network
342A Elgin Street
Ottawa, ON K2P 1M6

Tel: 613-563-2464
Fax: 613-563-2504


RIF National Headquarters
Reading Is Fundamental
P.O. Box 33728
Washington, DC 20033

202-536-3400, 1-877-RIF-READ or