17 March 2014 — The Importance of Literacy







March is recognized as Literacy Month in Rotary, and it probably escapes all of us, reading these words right now on this page, that we don’t even think twice about reading these words.

Literacy is important. Now imagine that you don’t know how to read–how many doors are closed to you. It isn’t easy to imagine, so let’s try it this way.

La capacidad de leer es importante. Likely most of you can understand pieces of that; and having the ability to connect the context you probably know what that means.

Now try it this way: 読み書きができることは重要なことです

Or this: .היכולת לקרוא חשובה  (If the translation program worked–and would you know to read that from right to left?)

Or this: Умение читать важно!

Or this: Ունակություն կարդալ կարեւոր է.

Or this: Η ικανότητα να διαβάζει είναι σημαντικό!

Suddenly it gets more difficult.  Imagine being dropped into the middle of an area where the signs use the symbols you see here.  Imagine living in a place where you cannot understand what the signs are telling you.

Illiteracy remains a problem, more so in developing parts of the world, but even among people leaving right here in our community.  Why else would the Los Angeles Public Library offer an Adult Literacy Program?  What ideas can we create to help with literacy in our back yard?  Certainly our assistance in building and stocking the library at Therapeutic Living Centers for the Blind is a good step.  What else?

For more ideas, take a look at some resources on The Literacy Site (where you can also click once daily to generate a sponsor-drive donation that’s free to us clickers).

Our friend Debbie Navarro of Reach Out And Read Los Angeles provided some new resources a few days ago, and in fact her suggestion may be the topic of our Fourth Sunday on 23 March (still TBD).  Check out this site and poke around.  International Dot Day.

Finally, for this week’s inline program, you may want to visit (new Members!) or re-visit our interview with Debbie from two years ago, when we learned about the obstacles of illiteracy, what her organization does about it (and why we donate the children’s books for our speakers), and how we can do more.  Click here to see that video.


The opinions expressed by guest speakers or on external websites linked to this program are those of the speaker(s)/websites and not necessarily of the Rotary E-Club of The Greater San Fernando Valley or its members. No endorsement is implied. Programs are presented for informational purposes only.


6 responses to 17 March 2014 — The Importance of Literacy

  1. The ability to read is important
    The ability to read and write is important
    Ability to read important
    The ability to read is important!
    The ability to read is important
    The ability to read is important!
    courtesy of google translate – having worked for a Vocational School that also offered ESL courses, literacy is a major deal (for us). Extra insight here is that literacy is important but its because we see the value associated with being able to read and write and the opportunities that are created as a result. However, being able to read and speak english is only important if you want to ‘play’ in the world where english is an entry card. One of Franklin’s quote has been corrupted over time – ‘Ignorance is Bliss.’ The actuarial quote is ‘If Ignorance is Bliss, tis folly to be wise.’ While running the esl school (english as a second language) I found communities in Los Angeles where individuals had no interest or desire to learn english, as they never interacted on any serious level, outside of their immediate community – not just in LA but overseas working with Chinese, Filipinos, Spaniards, Lebanese, Egyptian, Koreans and many others. Learning another’s language may sound like a common sense slam dunk (that they need it and should want it,) but in other cultures, it really isn’t the case, and I have to say from my experience, it is a bit arrogant our part to assume that everyone should see it ‘our’ way. I hope this doesn’t offend anyone but language is an opportunity to ‘build good will and better friendships’ but not everyone wants that either. For many, language and literacy is just tool to keep barriers up and keep people apart.
    Not much for soap box in general, but I hope someday, what we are trying to achieve through Rotary, really takes off in the general consciousness. That would be something to read about.

    • Well, setting aside blowing the surprise for everyone who comes later by translating all of it…I hope there’s no impression created that this program or the examples of other alphabets and linguistic symbols suggests that we think literacy means “reading and writing English.” The point, of course, is that if you dropped me in the middle of Greece, it would be helpful to me to know how to interpret something like “EMERGENCY EXIT” in Greek letters. This is not about language at all, it is about being able to interpret visual symbols and learn from them.

  2. Our TLC project could easily lead to an ongoing literacy program now that we have the relationship established with that organization. We should talk about that once we get the library itself up and running.

  3. Coming from the educator’s perspective, listening and speaking are the foundation of literacy. Children need to have receptive and expressive language skills before they can learn to read and write. Once they comprehend spoken language, the are able to associate what they hear (verbal phrases) to what they see (written words), consequently developing a mental image in their mind, which allows reading for pleasure and success. The five pillars of reading are: phonemic awareness (individual sounds of spoken words), phonics (relationship between letters and sounds), fluency (reading text accurately and quickly), vocabulary (knowledge of word meaning), and comprehension (ability to understand, remember and communicate meaning). This is precisely what we work on with students in pre-school and the elementary grades. Research shows that the ability to read by 3rd grade is a key indicator of academic success. So talk to your children, read to your children, and celebrate literacy!

  4. We can often convey our true feelings better and easier in writing than speaking. We sometimes pick up the same old book we have read before and still discover new things each time. Words are amazing and so are our brains that process those words. We should all be able to enjoy reading and writing and the world that it opens no matter how old, what gender, where we were born, or how much money we have.

  5. How inspirational to see the interview and hear Debbie Navarro talk about literacy, and Reach Out and Read Los Angeles.

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