Literacy is a skill that is never late to acquire because it is essential for education, employment, belonging to the community, and ability to help one’s children. Those people, who cannot read, are deprived of many opportunities for professional or personal growth. Unwillingness to become literate can be partly explained by lack of resources and sometimes shame; yet, these obstacles can and should be overcome.
First, one can say that literacy is crucial for every person who wants to understand the life of a society. It is also essential for ability to critically evaluate the world and other people. In his book, Frederick Douglass describes his experiences of learning to read. Being a slave, he had very few opportunities for education.
Moreover, planters were unwilling to teach their slaves any reading skills because they believed that literacy would lead to free thinking and slaves’ aspirations for freedom (Douglass, 96). Overall, they were quite right in their assumption because literacy gives people access to information, and they understand that they can achieve much more than they have. This can be one of the reasons for learning to read.
Yet, literary is essential for many other areas of life, for example, employment. Statistical data show that low-literate adults remain unemployed for approximately six months of the year (Fisher, 211). This problem becomes particularly serious during the time when economy is in the state of recession. It is particularly difficult for such people to retain their jobs especially when businesses try to cut their expenses on workforce.
One should take into account that modern companies try to adapt new technologies or tools, and the task of a worker is to adjust to these changes. Thus, literacy and language proficiency are important for remaining competitive. Furthermore, many companies try to provide training programs to their employees, but participation in such programs is hardly possible with basic reading skills. Thus, these skills enable a person to take advantage of many opportunities.
Additionally, one has to remember that without literacy skills people cannot help their children who may struggle with their homework assignments. Moreover, ability to read enables a person to be a part of the community in which he or she lives. In his essay The Human Cost of an Illiterate Society, Jonathan Kozol eloquently describes the helplessness of illiterate people.
This helplessness manifests itself in a variety of ways; for example, one can mention inability to read medicine prescriptions, contracts, ballot papers, official documents, and so forth (Kozol, unpaged). While speaking about these people, Jonathan Kozol uses the expression “an uninsured existence” which means that they are unaware of their rights, and others can easily exploit them (Kozol, unpaged). To a great extent, illiterate individuals can just be treated as second-class citizens.
This is a danger that people should be aware of. To be an active member of a community, one has to have access to a variety of informational resources, especially, books, official documents, newspapers, printed announcements, and so forth. For illiterate people, these sources are inaccessible, and as a result, they do not know much about the life of a village, town, city, or even a country in which they live.
In some cases, adults are unwilling to acquire literacy skills, because they believe that it is too late for them to do it. Again, one has to remember that there should always be time for learning, especially learning to read.
Secondly, sometimes people are simply ashamed of acknowledging that they cannot read. In their opinion, such an acknowledgment will result in their stigmatization. Yet, by acting in such a way, they only further marginalize themselves. Sooner or later they will admit that ability to read is important for them, and it is better to do it sooner.
Apart from that, people should remember that there are many education programs throughout the country that are specifically intended for people with low literacy skills (Fisher, 214). Certainly, such programs can and should be improved, but they still remain a chance that illiterate adults should not miss. If these people decide to seek help with this problem, they will be assisted by professional educators who will teach them the reading skills that are considered to be mandatory for an adult person.
Although it may seem a far-fetched argument, participation in such programs can open the way to further education. As it has been said by Frederick Douglass learning can be very absorbing and learning to read is only the first step that a person may take (Douglass, 96). This is another consideration that one should not overlook.
Overall, these examples demonstrate that ability to read can open up many opportunities for adults. Employment, education, and ability to uphold one’s rights are probably the main reasons why people should learn to read. Nonetheless, one should not forget that professional growth and self-development can also be very strong stimuli for acquiring or improving literacy skills. Therefore, people with poor literacy skills should actively seek help in order to have a more fulfilling life.
Douglass, Frederick. “Learning to Read.” Life and Times of Frederick Douglass.
Frederick Douglass. New York: Kessinger Publishing, 2004. Print.
Fisher, Nancy. “Literacy Education and the Workforce: bridging the gap.” Journal of Jewish Communal Service 82. 3 (2007): 210-215. Print.
Kozol, Jonathan. The Human Cost of an Illiterate Society. Vanderbilt Students of
Nonviolence, 2008. Web. 9 Apr. 2012.