October is National Book Month. The National Book Foundation would like you to “embark on the journey of a lifetime, travel to exotic places, mythical lands and experience adventure beyond imagination. Or escape to another era altogether. All without luggage, tickets, a passport or leaving home. All you need is an open mind. And an open book” (Celebrate National Book Month, n.p., 2012).
Sounds simple enough, right? Well, what if it’s really not all that simple? In the United States, there is a 98% literacy rate. That means that 98% of the population has a basic understanding of reading. If this number is correct, only 2% of America’s residents could be considered illiterate.
Actually, those numbers are calculated by not only the percentage of the people who can read, but also the number of people who can do basic mathematical problems. Good thing that October isn’t Do a Basic Math Problem Month.
In Pennsylvania the number of people who are over the age of fifteen and don’t possess the basic levels of literacy is somewhat higher; it’s 13%. In Philadelphia the number is even higher at 23%.
This means that 23% of Philadelphians have difficulty reading pamphlets or simple instructions that come with every day necessities such as medicine. Some people believe that it’s because Philadelphia has a large number of immigrants who’s language isn’t English, but that’s not necessarily true. Everything isn’t always about the immigrants.
The ability to read is one of the most basic needs that a person can have. The ability to read opens doors to opportunities and can unleash people from the shackles of poverty. It can help someone get a better job, more education, learn a trade, help their child with their homework, cook healthier meals, understand what’s on a monthly utility bill and, eventually, open the world up to them.
In Philadelphia, there are several agencies that can help adults improve their literacy skills and many of these agencies offer programs for free.
The Center of Literacy, located at 638 S. 48 Street, has several community programs geared towards helping adults develop the ability to read. Classes are held in the morning, afternoon and evening at over 100 community locations. The curriculum is unique to each individual. For more information on their programs, please call 215-474-1235.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter has a Commission on Literacy. Currently, there are over 550,000 residents who can’t read. He plans on making Philly the most literate city in the nation by 2016 and will directly connect anyone who wants to learn how to read to over 50 of the organizations that provide literacy classes throughout the city. For more information, please call the Mayor’s Commission on Literacy at 215-686-5250.
So, let’s really celebrate National Book Month by making sure everyone can read.