Today is World Book Day. Children up and down the land are dressing up as their favourite characters; the second thing down on Google is ‘World Book Day Costumes’ leading to visions of frantic parents recycling Shepard’s costumes from the nativity whilst their Yummy Mummy counterparts order Matilda costumes for forty quid of the t’internets…
I went on Cif and asked if the Graun could do a piece on World Book Day and literacy and someone responded asking the very interesting question ‘what do we use literacy for?’ This person is apparently a reader and would feel adrift without books, but questions the relevance of literacy for everyone.
Here is my answer
Every single time you read a road sign, think about the people who can’t. Every time you need to find a number, think about the 5 MILLION adults in this country who cannot use a phone book. Every time you flick through a newspaper, think about the fact that there are no left wing publications in this country that cater for a reading level below Level 3. This means that a THIRD of people in this country cannot read information that is not right wing is bias, owned and produced by rich people with an agenda. One in six people, one in six people, do not have a functional level of literacy. That means a sixth of the adults in this country do not have the skills to have a life that they are supposed to aspire to.
Almost half of people in prison have a reading of Level 1 or below (D at GCSE). Children are leaving school not being able to read and 1/20 of those children go home to a house with no books in it. A tenth of children have never owned their own book.
We NEED literacy because we live in a world that has grown to rely on it. Six hundred years after the birth of printing, the Information Society is firmly established. Without the means of effective participation then how does someone know if they need literacy or not?
Happy World Book Day, enjoy your books, and feel thankful that you are one of the so few who can read them.