This weekend, while I was sitting outside of the Broadway Cafe of Kansas City, drinking coffee in the snow, I was noticed by a man dragging a shopping cart full of cans that he was hoping to recycle. He introduced himself to me as Jersey, and asked if I was enjoying the weather. I nodded, saying, “I am, thank you. Is there anything I can help you with today, sir?” Jersey responded by bashfully asking if I could spare some change, which I of course could. I smile politely and replied, “I’ll tell you what, I have a ten dollar bill in my pocket with your name on it, but I want you to earn it. I want you to have worked for it so that it is payment rather than charity. You don’t need my charity do you, Jersey? So, how about you let me interview you?” He smiled, and agreed. I said, “Sit here while I get you a cup of coffee. It’s freaking cold out here. Then we’ll start.”
Now I really expected the interview to go nowhere and leave me with nothing to use. However, when I threw out the question, “So tell me Jersey, how did you find yourself in this position,” his reply changed my outlook on life. “It all comes down to the fact that I never learned how to read.”
One in five people worldwide could not read this blog. That comes out roughly to three-quarters of a billion adults who remain illiterate. In the United State alone, there are 42 million unable to read. The impact this has on their income and families well being is hard to imagine through the eyes of a reader. However, if you were to grab an important form, such as a healthcare application that was written in a language that you did not speak, do you believe that you could fill it out? The impact that literacy has on income and personal well-being is honestly quite great. The inability to do so may prevent the ability to get or keep jobs, signing up for public benefits, or understanding changes to our government or health plans that could directly influence the lives of one or their families.
It is important that we help. To learn more about how you can do so:
Support those organizations who are providing new and used books, such as International Book Project, First Book, and Room to Read. Donations are taken in forms of used books, money to cover the shipping of books, or money to underwrite the creation of reading rooms, school rooms, or computer room throughout the country.
You can click and give books at no cost to you. Simply click the big red button on theFirst Book webpage. Through sponsors and partnering, the clicking of this button helps fund the cost of books. To date, more than 40 million books have reached children in hundreds of communities through this organization.
Volunteer at an adult literacy program once a week. Find a organization near you here.
Read to children in the Head Start program, child care programs serving low income children, health clinic waiting rooms, public schools, or juvenile detention facilities.
And most important, read to your kids, grandkids, cousins or friend’s kids everyday. If the children are older, take turns reading aloud from a book the whole family enjoys. Allow people to see you reading, in public or a park, in hopes that it might inspire them to do the same.
And remember that world literacy and the ending of world poverty walk hand in hand.