23 February 2013

Literacy, or the Lack Thereof

I love to read, in fact, I'm addicted to reading. Seriously, I feel incomplete without reading (or writing) something everyday. I learned to read before I went to Kindergarten. When I asked my mom how I learned she told me I'd see a sign, (street, billboard, store front) and I'd ask her what it said, she'd tell me and I'd remember it. I learned to decode words by myself, I think. I don't remember. I do remember learning a few phonics rules in school, but I usually got 100% on spelling tests.

Both of my parents are readers and our home was full of books and magazines. We read scriptures together and my mother read novels to me before bed. I still remember the soothing sound of her voice. She had the ability to read in the car without getting sick (I didn't inherit that trait) and would read to us as we traveled, in the olden days before anything other than AM radios were in autos. My parents subscribed to the Church News from Deseret News and all the church magazines. I read them all. When the magazines were standardized and correlated we continued to subscribe and I still read them all.

Before I got married I lived alone in a one bedroom apartment near downtown San Diego. In the little hallway between the living room and the bedroom was space and I had my dad build me some shelving to fill that space from floor to ceiling. One half of the shelves housed my books and the other half was for food and other storage. One guy I had a date with came over to pick me up and saw those shelves and asked incredulously "Have you read all those books?" "Well, most of them," I answered. He seemed disgusted and said something about it being a waste of time. I didn't go out with him again. When TopDad came over and saw all those books he exclaimed "You like to read too, cool!" I married him.

Our children have grown up in a home where the books shelves are full and there are piles of books all over the place; plus we go to the library regularly. They all can read, most like too, several are addicts like their parents. We subscribe to the Church News and the Ensign, New Era and Friend magazines. (Well, actually our Friend subscription expired and I won't renew it at this time because our youngest is almost 15, and I decided to give a gift subscription to a single dad in our branch.) We read scriptures together and I have read novels to all of the children at bedtime.

We are a literate family. I thought most other church members were like us. WRONG! Not out here in our tiny Iowa branch. Most here can't read very well if at all, and it seems that many who can, don't. There is a preponderance of reading disabilities as well as a lack of desire to improve. It drives me crazy!

As the RS President I suggested to the Branch President that we offer a "literacy class." He put it before the Branch Council for discussion. One suggestion was to call it a "book club" which I thought was a poor suggestion as people who can't read are hardly going to attend a club for readers. Another brother suggested that we must be very careful and sensitive so we won't offend anyone. My little teapot boiled over at that point and I asked "How would anyone be offended by an invitation to a voluntary class to improve their literacy so they could improve their employment skills as well as have a greater understanding of the gospel through reading and comprehending the scriptures, church magazines, and lesson manuals?" What am I missing here? Am I the only one who wants to improve in this life? The matter was tabled for another time.

Here's a little example: I learned to lead music as a child, I think from my dad, and was called to be a Primary chorister when I was still 13. From that time on I took whatever music conducting course was offered in all the wards and stakes I've lived in. I NEVER felt that I didn't need to learn more or practice to get better.

Another example: I was never offended because I was asked/assigned to take a teacher development course, even after having taken it a half dozen times. I figured there was something else I could learn.

The Glory of God is Intelligence or in other words, light and truth. But how can a person gain more light and truth if they can't read? A brother got up to give a talk in Sacrament Meeting and said something like "I've been asked to talk about the Atonement. I don't know much about the Atonement so I don' know what I can say. Now if they'd asked me to talk about NASCAR or football I could talk for two or three hours." (I thought, well there's your problem, you've spent too much time studying the wrong things, buddy.) Then he proceeded to painfully read excerpts from a General Conference address, add his testimony and sat down. He is one who would benefit from a literacy class. His wife types the Sunday bulletin, which is an embarrassment to me with all of its typos, mispellings and misinformation. She likes to read in Sunday School class, but butchers anything she reads so that it makes little sense. It is no wonder that the illiterate don't comprehend the gospel as found in the scriptures.

Has anyone who reads this been involved in a unit literacy class or effort? I'd love to hear about it.

Until next time. Right now I'm going to grab a book and relax.

1 comment:

  1. PW, Son of Rozy LassMarch 1, 2013 at 1:27 AM

    Adding a mere comment, being a first for me, PW is reporting in and expressing gratitude for his mother's wisdom in teaching by example the value of literacy.
    In two weeks I am relocating to BYU-Idaho, and have already begun the moving process by packing my food storage and the books I am not currently reading. The pile so far is about 10 boxes, with a books-to-food ratio of 2-1. Visitors who questioned the purpose of the boxes and their contents have commented that sitting right there is all I need to survive, and I will heartily agree.
    I recall how when we moved to Provo, Dad being enrolled at BYU, I had a difficult time finding friends due to an age gap in our area. Thus, being alone, I turned to books, reading everything that sparked my interest. In 12th grade alone I read more that 134 books, or 44,000 pages of written material, and by then I also had good friends and a social life.
    I frequently surprise myself and others with little tidbits of information gleaned from a number of books.
    And all this because my Mother taught me to read books, and to love learning. I share in her frustration at those less literate and without desire to improve.
    My Eagle Scout Project was the sending of books in a starting library in Africa, where literacy and learning is a life-saving endeavor. How sad it is, that across our once-great nation we see the sharpest decline of literacy and study, and how frustrating it can be, to know that it will only get worse before it is possible to get better...
    Alright, enough of my rant. Thank you Mom, for sharing with me the eternal blessing of the written word and the enlightening book.