Navigating a not-so-foreign place

Published 5:49 pm Monday, January 18, 2016

Navigating a foreign country, if one is fortunate enough to do so, can be a wonderful experience. It can also be a bit nerve-wracking, if a person is traveling in a country where a language other than his or her own native one is being spoken. Traffic signs, street names, restaurant tabs, receipts and directions can all be utterly baffling if one cannot read the language. Not knowing how to read the many signs can cause a lot of stress and confusion. It can turn an adventure into a tedious chore.

For many, being unable to comprehend the written word would only happen in the mentioned scenario. For others, it’s a way of life — being unable to read and unable to navigate through the world around them.

Fourteen percent of the U.S. adult population cannot read. That’s 32 million people who have the same difficulty navigating through life as a traveler in a foreign country. In 10 years, those numbers have not changed.

Seventy percent of inmates in America’s prisons cannot read above a fourth-grade level. Eighty-five percent of all juveniles who come into contact with the juvenile court system are illiterate — reading failure is intrinsically a part of delinquency, crime and violence, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

There is a public education system to which all children are welcome, so why would any person leave that system, or be graduated from that system, without knowing how to read?

Outside of learning disabilities like dyslexia, the most frequent causes of illiteracy have to do with the often insurmountable barriers of one’s environment: parents with little schooling; lack of books in the home and no emphasis on the importance of being able to read; failing and dropping out of school; and harsh living conditions, including poverty.

Being able to read impacts every part of one’s life, from getting a driver’s license to grocery shopping. Being unable to read means a person is dependent on others to help them navigate through everyday life. Literacy Volunteers of Beaufort County is constantly seeking those who wish to learn to read or improve their skills, as well as volunteers to teach people to read. Those seeking to improve their literacy skills can take advantage of free, 90-minute one-on-one tutoring sessions once a week.

A literate community is one that can help break the cycle of poverty.

For more information about tutoring and volunteer training, call 252-974-1812.