Whether the reason is economic difficulty, neglect on the part of parents and teachers, a learning disability, or sheer laziness, there are an awful lot of people in this world who cannot read. Some never learned to; some never had the opportunity to learn. I am grateful every single day for my ability to understand written English.
What irritates me to no end, however, are supposedly literate adults who, for no apparent reason, do not read. Whether this is the dude standing under the sign that says “Toilets —>” asking where the toilets are or the person writing to ask a question that was answered in my initial email, I’m realizing more and more that too many of us take literacy for granted. Let me be clear: I’m not ranting about the people from paragraph one who, for whatever reason, actually cannot read. I’m talking about people who have the ability to read and choose (consciously or unconsciously) not to exercise that ability. My examples above are relatively innocuous, but what about the senator who just skims through a bill in Washington? What about the student who flunks an exam because he didn’t take the time to read the instructions properly?
These people, by the way, the ones who can read but don’t, are typically the ones complaining about how they’ve been left out of the loop on things. They feel wronged by the world when literally all they had to do was READ the information provided to them. As a result of people like this, I’m becoming more and more convinced that 90% of problems (at least in English-speaking countries) could be solved if the literate population would just read things properly.
If you are reading this, you have been given a gift. You can read. Please do not let this gift go to waste. Literacy is not just ABC’s and phonics–it’s the ability to see and understand written language. Let’s work on that ‘understand’ part, World!