Imagine the world without literature as if humans never created written languages. What if the first cave markings have never existed? What would modern society look like had nothing ever been written?
Can you picture the barren scape, held together by tradition and stories passed down verbally but never fully recollecting the way it originally was? Mathematics, science, and discoveries would all be limited and, if not, shared with those who are in proximity if they could grasp those concepts.
The world without literacy is a gloomy place indeed.
Now imagine our literate world. Ahh, that's better. History is being recollected and retold, and there are discoveries in mathematics and science every day. It's a bustling world where stories thrive, and knowledge is being shared, especially with ease as modern technology is incorporated. Now imagine this world has left you behind. Most of the population have this key to life, the key that lies with the written word, but not you. You were too unfortunate. For whatever reasons, you are an adult that does not know how to read in any language.
You speak in a less educated way and find yourself envious of those of higher standing, those you deem unoppressed, those with all the opportunities. Things come easier to them, you think. The whole world is at the edge of their fingertips. They have the internet, where they read and learn things. You tell yourself you are uninterested, the internet is like a drug, and you must shelter your mind. But that's a lie. You can hardly afford that phone even though you worked at the factory since you were a small child. You rush off with what little you have back into your village where your hungry family waits for you, a few of which might have serious health conditions, and you are struggling with the means to provide their care. Life was always a struggle, you recall.
Your village feels nostalgic to most outsiders, like a small piece of the past, but to you, it is home. The rotting structure has stood for at least a century, and with the skills your parents taught you, you can easily repair it when something gives in. You are a hard and good worker with an eye for detail. If only they'd see that and give you a better opportunity. You think they won't want you because you are too poor, too unintelligent.
No one in your village lives past sixty. You hear about people living until their eighty in the fancy cities past the steep mountains. Your parents are near that expiring age...
Perhaps you are content with your life, but it won't ever truly change because you don't know how to get yourself to that next level unless you have the creativity and drive to push you there. If only you knew that the flyer you passed on the way to work every day mentioned a better job opportunity. Something so simple as a small flyer could have changed your entire life...
Off in another country, a woman goes through similar struggles, though she is not alone. All women in her country are denied the right to education and denied the right to work. Her father has just died, and she has no brothers, only three younger sisters, and her mother. Her only way out of this alive is to find a man to marry, but will he take on the responsibility of her sisters and her mother? No, evidently, he will not. He instead sells the three young sisters to men willing to purchase the virgins and wait for them to obtain their periods. You never see them again. You will not know if they are alive or dead, but it is better than nothing, you hope. You now, for the rest of your life, act as though you are indebted to your husband's kindness. Your mother, luckily, is safe in your home, but she must keep quiet, or else. She is a freeloader, after all, and should have made sure your father never died from that terminal disease if she wished herself a better life...
Though these are just exaggerated stories, keep in mind that while the world continues to grow and thrive, countless people are being left behind because they are illiterate. We take for granted the gift of scanning this sentence from left to right with full comprehension of what is being written. It is a skill we were taught as children, some with a better grasp of it than others, but it does not have to be that way. All people have a right to education, and all people have the ability to learn.
With literature spanning five thousand years or more, it should, at this point, be a fundamental human right. However, countless circumstances are preventing people all around the world from reaching their full potential. Literacy can end poverty, improve the economy, promote gender equality, improve confidence, enhance the quality of life, and promote world peace. These are big advantages for something so small, and you might wonder how literacy can do all that. Well, literate parents have more of a foundation to raise literate children. Education helps people get higher-paid jobs. What we can learn through literacy can enhance technology and advance humankind. As of now, illiteracy costs the global economy 300 billion dollars. If women in all countries can read and write, we can achieve equality. Illiteracy hinders verbal expression, which leads to anxiety and depression. Statistics show literate people have more of a chance of having an interest in politics and government, thus promoting world peace, according to Concern Worldwide, US.
What can we do to irradiate illiteracy and bring all people to a better way of life?
There are so many small ways we can help. Every little action creates an impactful ripple effect. Children are our future. The more children are literate, the better their chances for a bigger and brighter future. This includes enhancing reading levels. And what better way to inspire learning than by incorporating something they will love?
As a child, I delighted in escaping into inspiring stories. The characters I related to gave me the courage I needed to become the woman I am today. As we know, sharing stories was the beginning of passing down knowledge, and from this came literacy in all its fabulous forms. Not every kid can get behind a textbook and gleefully relay the information within. But all kids hold dear the stories of the characters that speak to their hearts, including epic stories about life outside this world—stories about myth and magic!
Education is so broad, and kids are eager to learn. The necessary tools for development shouldn't cost an arm and a leg!
Why not give students stories worth reading—stories that inspire their developing characters for years to come, stories that are parent approved?
Join the fight to irradiate illiteracy for a brighter tomorrow. It costs you nothing! Become a member of the Encourage Literacy Foundation today. School faculty members, authors, and literary agents join the nonprofit Encourage Literacy Foundation to give students free books.
JK Noble | Author | Artist | Philanthropist
Published author of the new YA Fantasy Series, HALE.
Creator of the LMB franchise and the Encourage Literacy Foundation.