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The gift of literacy

Imagine for a moment, that you could not read this sentence. Picture the letters and words as an incoherent jumble of symbols. Think of how difficult life would be if you could not read at all.

So many daily activities, many of which are easily taken for granted, would be out of reach: reading a directional sign on the roadway; completing an assignment in school; filling out forms at a doctor’s office; ordering from a restaurant menu; reading a newspaper. Each of these basic, everyday tasks requires one critical trait — literacy.

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute for Literacy estimated that 32 million American adults were unable to read and write. While that makes up approximately 1% of the nation’s population, for those who can’t read or write, it can mean difficulty finding employment, economic hardship and an overall disadvantage in life.

Fortunately, there are people and organizations in Beaufort County actively working to reach local people who might lack reading and writing skills. Think Literacy Volunteers of Beaufort County, which offers free tutoring to help adults learn to read, write and understand math.

The Beaufort-Hyde Partnership for Children, likewise, works to promote literacy by putting books in the hands of as many young children and families as possible, before the school system takes on the task of continuing their education.

Then there’s the Beaufort County Literacy Task Force. The task force is a subgroup of Beaufort County 360, a nonprofit organization led by community stakeholders working collectively on community issues such as literacy and public health. This week, the group shared plans to place little library boxes in communities throughout the county, offering access to books in places they might otherwise be hard to come by.

The efforts of these groups are to be commended. By helping address illiteracy in the community, they are making a valuable difference in people’s lives, and society as a whole.

If you can read these words, consider yourself lucky. But also consider giving a hand up to someone who might not be so fortunate. In helping someone learn to read, either a child or an adult, you’ll be making a difference that will last forever.

To learn more about Literacy Volunteers of Beaufort County, visit www.beaufortcoliteracy.org. The literacy task force also maintains a presence on Facebook @LiteracyTaskForceBeaufortCountyNC.