A few days ago I was playing around in YouTube and stumbled across a fun and funny video called “Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis: President Barack Obama.” While Zach and the president were discussing affordable health care for young adults, one incident drew my attention. President Obama referred to young adults as thinking they were “invincible.” Zach played on that by interpreting the president as saying “invisible.” In a nutshell, these two professionals managed to squeeze two enormous issues into just a couple of sentences: health care for the young and uninsured, and an issue of illiteracy that may be larger than we think.
I know very little about the Affordable Health Care act. It’s not my area of focus or expertise. But I think that as a writer, the issue of illiteracy ought to be a concern for me. Heck, if people don’t read or comprehend what they read, this hits me in a very direct way. That’s a shrinking “target market.” As an old marketing person, I understand the importance of expanding a target, not shrinking it. So the questions started:
- Is there an illiteracy problem in our country?
- What are the many facets of illiteracy?
- Why should we care if people don’t read?
- Is reading a quaint past time that could easily be replaced with movies, videos and other forms of communication? Is it “out of date?”
To be honest, I’ve done a little reading on the subject over the past few months. I haven’t “fact checked” thoroughly, but here are some things that have surfaced for me:
- 82% of the adults in this country read one book or less a year for entertainment
- 19% of the adults who watch a television show will miss between a quarter and a third of the program’s message because they don’t understand it.
- 20% of high school graduates can be classified as being functionally illiterate.
Ouch! For those of us who do read, try to grow our comprehension, try to think through the issues of our day with the information we get through reading, journaling and other forms of written communication, these figures must be cause for concern.
This is why I’m adding a new category to my blog posts–Literacy. Over the next months, I want to explore this topic in greater detail. But most importantly, if you and I discuss this and conclude that literacy is a “problem,” we may be able to brainstorm about how we can help. As my sister says, “Think global, act local.”
I know everyone has schedules that are crammed full of today’s pressing issues for her or him, so I’m not asking you to take action and “solve” this thing, but if you can join me in finding out more about the topic of literacy, perhaps we can come up with ways to address the issue in our own communities.
A few months ago, I read a book of short mysteries by a group of famous writers led by Mary Higgins Clark. The Plot Thickens is a super fun read. Each story had the requirement that it contained these three elements:
- A Thick steak
- A thick fog
- A thick book
I enjoyed every moment of reading these stories, and am looking forward to buying this for my permanent collection, because not only were these terrific stories to read, but the proceeds from sales of the book go to helping Americans with literacy problems. How cool is that?
Wishing your week is filled with fun reading and great comprehension.