Interestingly, 85% of juvenile delinquents are functionally illiterate and yet getting adults to read, showing a good example to their children, is almost impossible. More than 60% of all prison inmates are functionally illiterate. Yet trying to get anyone to listen is like talking to someone blind, deaf and mute.
There are those who would rather play Warcraft, City of Heroes or a multitude of other multiplayer online games and video games then spend time reading to their children. Others would rather play football, basketball, racquetball . . . anything that keeps them from actually having to sit down and read or interact with their families. I've heard yet others say they they don't enjoy it and would rather walk over hot coals than read a book. (I've had that same reaction to some books too. But there are thousands upon thousands of authors and books. I promise you, if you will look, you'll find authors you enjoy and books you cannot put down.) Reading is at the core of all we are and all we hope to become.
Some of the fondest memories of my childhood were laying on my stomach on the living room floor in front of the fireplace, my chin propped on my hands, listening to my mother read to us every night. The firelight low, the lamp near my mother's head beaming a circle around her, the moon shining softly through the living room window. These memories are deep and dear. The James Herriot series (All Things Bright & Beautiful, All Things Wise and Wonderful, All Creatures Great and Small, And the Lord God Made Them All, just to name a few) was our favorite. The mishaps of this countryside British veterinarian kept us entertained for weeks, months and years on end. I remember tears rolling down our faces as peals of laughter ran through our home. Oh, the situations that man got himself into! And yet, I have spoken to so few people who can relate a similar, even remotely similar, experience.
I grew up in a home surrounded by books. Oh we played football, volleyball, basketball, we danced, we played, we gardened, we prepared and canned our harvests, we went to church and school, we cheered and we played . . . and we read.
My own sweet husband, who is brilliant and very literate, doesn't like to read either. That's a hard pill for a published author, such as I, to swallow. To have something I value so greatly be dismissed out of hand is a blow to the soul. Yes, I'm possibly overreacting, but it does hurt. Interestingly, it is not just my husband. Entire segments of the American population react in the same way. I've had the following conversation thousands of times:
"Wow, you wrote a book?"
"That is so amazing. I could never do that."
"Do you like to read?" I reply.
"Oh no," they say. "I don't have time for that."
Death knell to an author and to a nation.
An illiterate nation is a third world nation, plain and simple. Yes, the current political climate is insane, the economy even more so. Our southern border is so porous entire classes of criminals waltz back and forth over the border without hesitation, taking over American border towns without a single shot fired. The governors of the border states pay no attention. The law enforcement agencies pay no attention. Our president ignores the situation. These illegal immigrants can't speak English let alone read it. But portions of our American government want to give them the right to vote so they can choose that man, or woman, who will give them the most stuff. God forbid they should actually work to improve themselves, their situations and circumstances. How could they start? By learning English, but no, they want everyone to learn Spanish so they don't have to stretch themselves or their minds.
People are angry about the government's investment/bailout plan . . .and why? Let me quote these people:
"What does it do for Scranton?"
"What does it do for Denver?"
"What does it do for New York?"
"What does it do for me?"
Those words are the core problem of this entire nation. Me, me, me. To hell with the nation, what will it do for me? They don't know the ramifications of this bailout plan, nor have they truly ever lived through a time of famine . . . but my grandmother did and the relating of those memories are vivid in my mind.
My husband and I have just come out of seven years of famine and are just easing into the low end of prosperity...right when the rest of the nation is tanking. We have been so poor that we couldn't pay for my husband's medications, let alone our rent. But I don't recall, ever saying, "Why isn't the government stepping in and saving me? Why isn't someone bailing us out.?" With the help of family and friends we made it through. Now the tables have turned and we get to help and we count it a great privilege.
But I don't hear that on the news, read it in the newspapers or hear that on the street. I only hear, "This bailout doesn't help me so I don't want it." There are real reasons to not like this bailout, it doesn't help me just isn't one of them.
That's just disheartening. And I guarantee these people don't read and they should. Fiction, nonfiction, I don't care. Certainly, readers of fiction think outside the box, tend to reach further and accept fewer limitations, but read . . . I don't care what. (Okay, scratch that. I'd be forever grateful if you would forego Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto. That's just drivel. Anyway, I digress.) If every American today had read the works of the founding fathers, studied the Constitution and thrown their all into living up to the responsibilities and privileges of being an America we wouldn't be in trouble right now. This I can state with a certainty. But no, most Americans haven't read the Constitution. Most Americans have never looked past the first few lines of the Declaration of Independence where we told the King of England . . . See ya! And then we backed that up with the blood and lives of Americans. Most Americans have never read the collected works of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin . . . . pick one, how many can say they've read them?
According to the literacy report released by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)
- About one in 20 adults in the U.S. is not literate in English
- 11 million Americans lack the skills to handle many everyday tasks
- 30 million adults may not be able to make sense of a simple pamphlet
- Adults with ability to perform challenging and complex reading tasks made an average yearly salary of $50,700 in 2003. That is $28,000 more than those who lacked basic skills.
My heart hurts, literally hurts. To have my work, and the work of my peers, valued so little. To know the salvation of our nation lies in the education of a people. An education free of hidden agendas and completely steeped in American principles and values. To know that all we have to do is open a book and enlighten our minds . . . to know that will not happen. This is the saddest thing of all.