Discussion: Are You Privileged?
Illiteracy In Our Digital Age
“The ability to express ourselves and talk to one another is essential to most species’ survival. Humans have taken communication a step further: We have created ways to speak in written forms to exchange and preserve ideas and culture across time and space.” – Qin Sun Stubis
It can be hard to imagine not being able to read. Not being able to read a book (one of the main things we tend to or at least try to do as book bloggers), not being able to simply read text messages from your family and loved ones, nevertheless having the inability to read or fully understand a menu at a cafe.
Reading and literacy, in general, has become a huge part of most people’s lives, but it begs the question of whether literacy is a right or a privilege – especially when there is a surprisingly high number of people out there in the world who aren’t proficient enough in literacy.
It’s a pretty hard fact that in developed countries like Australia where I live, going to school has now become classified as a chore for many students. I, myself, thought so when I was in primary school and high school, who wouldn’t rather be out in the world playing or reading at home all day instead of studying? It’s unfortunate that these days kids may not understand how much of a privilege it is to go to school and get an education.
Not everyone can go to school, we should all have heard of the lengths Malala Yousafzai went to just to get an education (and she quite literally got shot down for it – thankfully survived). Not everyone can read! When doing research for this discussion blog post, I checked out my own country’s illiteracy rates to find that a few years back, a study showed that over 40% of the population have literacy levels below what is considered enough to get by in everyday life¹. A simply google showed with thousands of articles saying the same for other countries, about their impending literacy crisis (except for those Scandinavian countries like Norway that kick arse with the highest education standards in the world where they get free food at school, have a near 100% literacy rate but they also pay ridiculously high taxes to get the best education there is – worth it? I think, yes.)
As a reader and a book blogger, I find that it’s easy to forget that not everyone has had the same privilege to learn to read, write and acquire an education that’s been mostly free, or least cheaper than in other places. It came to me recently when I was doing required reading for one of my university subjects, where it was a particularly hard piece to read (no thanks to you Karl Marx) and I imagined how difficult it would be if it was that hard just to read something simpler.
Thinking about this made me immensely grateful for the opportunities I’ve had and the future opportunities I’ll get with my education. Being able to read is essential to most of our lives nowadays, especially in this digital age – and I don’t mean the ability to read blog posts or facebook or social media but something as serious as our careers, applying for a job online and paying bills. Literacy affects our quality of life and shapes our future.
Highlighting how lucky we are, I think creates another perspective and emphasises why even as young adults who may have finished or are finishing our schooling, we should be even more encouraging to others and emphasising the importance of literacy and learning.
International Literacy Day is a little far away, being on the 8th of September but there is a World Book Day coming up on April 23rd which was created by UNESCO to celebrate and encourage reading, publishing and copyright. I don’t know what people usually on these book days so I’d love any recommendations.
The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.
So, I guess I’m opening up the discussion box, what do you think about illiteracy in the world? How long do you think it’ll take for reading and literacy to be a right that everyone is entitled to and gets no matter where they are?