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Discussion: Are You Privileged? | Illiteracy In Our Digital Age

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.

—Mark Twain

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?

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  • Shaz

    I agree! I think that literacy is something a lot of people in developed countries take for granted. Being able to read should be a right for all children and not a privilege. Great discussion, Tracy!

  • Tasya @ The Literary Huntress

    This is a great and thought provoking piece, Tracy! I know school is hard and it feels like a chore for all of use, but I agree that we don’t realize how privilege we are to be able to go to school at all; to be allowed and have the means to fulfill our education. I do believe that literacy, and education in that matter because without the ability to understand the context and thinking critically literacy can bring a whole set of new trouble (discussion of another time), is a basic right that should be fulfilled for everyone. I think it’s just sad to realize that there are many others who are not as fortunate as us, and that’s why we should help them. In my area, there are a lot of organizations that provide small, weekly classes for children in poverty so they are able to read and count. I know it might be a basic, unimportant skills for most of us, but they are something those kids don’t have and might make a differences for them šŸ™‚

    • Tracy

      Thank you so much! and yes exactly, completely agree šŸ™‚ Those organisations sound so great for kids in poverty!

  • Krysta @ Pages Unbound

    I think school and literacy only become a chore when they become common. So, while it’s unfortunate that many seem not to realize the opportunities they are being given, I suppose it’s good at least that they do have the opportunity. They don’t have to fight to go to school.

    I was actually just thinking about this last night as I read Frederick Douglass’ biography. He was willing to be beaten or potentially killed for learning how to read because he understood that education–and literacy–could give him power. Yet, today, an astonishing number of students seem to be ambivalent about school and not to understand why it could be important. Perhaps teaching stories like Douglass’, or even teaching about the many places in the world today where school is still not available to everyone, could be a good starting place to remind students that they should think twice before wasting their opportunities?

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