First things first: Thank you educators (formal and informal). You guys are on the front lines doing something about literacy issues.
With our digital world still unfolding and it currently being the wild, wild west of the world, I worry there has been a tendency to view words as inferior to numbers. Reading is seen as escapism, a hobby, and other whimsy. Literacy starts meaning the ability to read a newspaper, which is written on an 8th grade level. What do we mean by literate?
The ability to grasp meaning from language requires a capacity to hold those abstract principles in your mind and then critically apply those abstractions to yourself. Sure, a 10 year old girl reading Anne of Green Gables, is absolutely doing this. Even if she’s reading for a school assignment and hates every second of it: she will have a feeling about what she reads and that feeling becomes opinion which she then must express in both a written and oral book report. Then she has learned to think for and express herself and her own thoughts.
Working in risk management for businesses and professionals, my days involve a lot of reading of policy forms. That huge stack of papers they give you when buy, say, auto insurance. Not the page that shows your coverage limits (commonly called or declarations page) but all the stuff after it, that is a legally binding contract you paid money to sign. Consider court documents and the language of laws. Reading a court filing yesterday, I hit a word I did not know. I have 4 print dictionaries I consult for such things. The word was in none of them and I could not find much online either. I was outraged.
I consider the work of promoting literacy to include the right to readability of “binding written agreements.” Things like state and federal law, how voting works, court papers and explanations of rights and lead options, credit card and bank agreements and capitalization and interest practices, student loan education.
The list goes on. My point is: there are ways language can be used to obfuscate instead of illuminate. The less we read the more likely we are to not even notice it. That is not a fair game; everyone deserves equity.