Literacy is a matter of Justice: Reading Changes Lives
September 2014. Darlene Collins, our UCC National Literacy Coordinator, reflects on literacy as a tool for eradicating poverty and creating a just community built on equality.
The ability to read touches every facet of life from our faith to our health. Individuals who are unable to read effectively and are fully literate lack the ability to access information, support their families or advocate for themselves. Low literacy skills increase a person’s chance for unemployment, incarceration and poor health.
Reading Changes Lives, an all-church initiative, raises awareness of the literacy crisis and the wide reaching impact the ability to read has on the quality of life. Reading Changes Lives proclaims that literacy is a basic human right.
Imagine that over 30 million U.S. adults are not able to:
- Read a prescription drug label
- Complete a job application
- Read a street sign or a bus schedule
- Understand a basic newspaper article
In the past, the ability to read was often used as a barometer of success. Education was considered a luxury only afforded to those of a certain class and gender, most often males. During the civil rights movement, the ability to read was used as a way to deny people of color their right to vote. Throughout the south, African Americans were required to read parts of the state constitution aloud as part of the registration process. This “Literacy Test”, a very overt and elaborate form of voter suppression continued well past the Voter’s Rights Act of 1965; a far cry, which is debatable, from the registration process today.
Although, in the U.S., education is free to all, large educational disparities still exist based on race and income. From the foundational experiences of young children to high school graduation rates, those living in poverty, most often people of color, fair far worst than their affluent counterparts. School quality often parallels the socioeconomics of the community you live in. The United Church of Christ continues to support and challenge the educational process to insure that the quality and access to public education is equal for all.
Low literacy skills limits financial freedom and educational opportunities. This has become a generational burden for children whose parents are unable to read. A parent’s reading skill level directly affects the reading success of their children. As the church strives to overcome economic, racial and health barriers; the need to help those achieve basic reading skills is very important. When literacy levels increase, unemployment decreases, incarceration rates decrease, and the high school drop out rate decline.
The United Church of Christ realizes that literacy is globally central to help eradicate poverty and to create a just community that is built on equality and personal empowerment.