Words mean more than just words

Published 5:52 pm Monday, January 23, 2017

Imagine for a moment not being able to read. Letters and numbers are a jumble that have no clear meaning. From signage to forms, from closed captioning to food labels, there is no way to decode this method of communication.

It would affect every aspect of life: economic security, the ability to vote, access to health care.

In the U.S., more than 32 million adults cannot read, which equates to approximately 14 percent of the population. Nineteen percent of high school graduates can’t read; 21 percent of adults read below a fifth-grade level. There is a link between illiteracy and crime: more than 70 percent of inmates in U.S. prisons read below a fourth-grade level, and 85 percent of juveniles in the court system are functionally illiterate.

Unfortunately, those statistics haven’t changed in more than a decade.

Here in Beaufort County, there is an effort afoot to change that. A part of the BC360 initiative — a grassroots effort to team up agencies, organizations, educators, individuals and their resources to address quality of life issues in the county — a literacy task force has been formed to tackle illiteracy, starting from the youngest residents.

This task force includes directors of libraries, educators, early childhood education advocates, literacy volunteers and more. The focus is on resources. There are plenty of resources available in the county — the problem is that people don’t know they exist. But they do exist in abundance.

For the next month, the Daily News will be looking at literacy in Beaufort County: the efforts being made to combat illiteracy, how Beaufort County’s people are working to give the children and adults who live here a leg up in life and the many ways residents can reach out for help from the people who have a vested interest in helping them.