I love to read. I read at home, in the car and anytime I find myself waiting for something. I can almost always be found with at least one book in my bag and another few strung around my house at any moment already started and ready to be picked back up and started again. This year alone, I have found myself reading 123 books with a few more almost finished. That is insane to consider! 123 books! I really do love to read, and I think it through my reading that I have been able to foster and develop my ability to write in a much better way.
Reading for me has always been the norm. I started out young reading short stories and novels that were above average for my age. Every holiday and birthday, I would request books for presents and would impatiently wait for the Scholastic book fair that came to my library every year. I couldn’t get enough of those stories and that love and desire for reading followed me into adulthood. Thankfully, my love of reading has also been passed down to my two nieces and I get more and more excited each year as they ask for books for Christmas, or we begin to talk about old childhood favorites that they are reading now. Roald Dahl never gets old. Robert Munsch is still an ongoing classic. Berenstain Bears are just as enjoyable as an adult as they were when I was their age. And the list goes on and on.
However, I am fully aware that I am not the norm. Yes, I have family members and friends who are avid readers like me, and I enjoy many conversations over our latest book and the ongoing recommendations. But I also know that I live in a province who has the lowest literacy rate in Canada. According to Laubach Literacy NB, over 50% of people in my province in 2005 were only at level 1 and 2 in their reading levels. What does that mean? Well, it means that 300 000 people in my province have a few basic skills and great difficulty with texts and would only be able to fully read information that is simple and clearly laid out. 300 000 people can barely read enough to get by, and yet, no one is really talking about it. And, keep in mind, that is just in my province alone.
That is an astonishing number to me. And yet, when I do the research, it is hard to tell which are the outlying reasons that so many people cannot, or can barely, read. Some of it is generational. It is those individuals who were pulled out of school too young to help at home or go to work to help cover bills. Some of it is learning disabilities and other impairments making it a challenge for students to develop those skills. Some of it is crappy teachers and crappy school systems that do not foster the reading of books or novels that actually garner interest in the students. Some of it is crappy parent who tell their kids books aren’t important. And to be honest, part of it is the bilingual expectations placed on our students’ learning who are already struggling. And lastly, some of it, is just generally an expectation that they do not have to. People can get by without learning to read. They can look for images, short form texts or get a rough understanding of something without knowing all the words. For most, that is enough.
Now, in saying all that, I am fully aware of the privilege that I have. The privilege that I grew up in a household that helped to foster my reading and bought me those books that I so desperately wanted. I am privileged that I did not experience a learning disorder or impairment that made it challenging for me to learn how to read. And, honestly, I am privileged to have attended a small school, with amazing teachers, who took the time to teach me those skills, not just reading but comprehension, critical thinking and analysis, that have helped me up to today. I have an ability that I think a lot of the time I take for granted. I may have three or four books on the go at one time and never once consider the fact that not only can I read all of them, but I can also do it simultaneously without issue.
If you are one of those individuals who struggle to read, you are not alone. If you are a person who can read well, which I am assuming to some degree you can if you are reading my blog, feel fortunate. Remember that not everyone has that skill and by taking that consideration, you may be more prone to adjust. Adjust your signs and forms to be more acceptable for individuals of all reading levels. Include images and visual directions when explaining a task or process. Be kind to that person who couldn’t read those signs or asks extra questions because they do not understand something. You are privileged. Period.
And own the JOY of reading. There is nothing better for us readers than grabbing a good book, or an old classic, with a blanket and a mug of hot chocolate (or coffee for you caffeine lovers). Curling up in your favorite chair, snuggled with that blanket and losing yourself in a story is unmatched by anything else. We are living in a world that is hard and challenging right now. Lose yourself. Take the time. And remember, for every story written, there is a reader waiting to experience it!
“A book is a gift you can open again and again.”