Our most valuable asset is our ability to read. Reading sets the stage for everything, from the most rudimentary text message to the most complex financial report — if you know someone’s reading aptitude, you can fairly guess how far that individual can go in life.
It is telling that those who succeed — male or female, black or white, liberal or conservative — all have in common a command of the English language.
If we could name one thing that is holding Washington County back above all else, it would be illiteracy. The need was highlighted at a state-of-the-library talk last week by Mary Baykan, director of the Washington County Free Library, who in no uncertain terms said, “We have a literacy problem in Washington County, and it is an economic drain on our community.”
The days when a person can earn a living without being fluent in standard written English are dwindling, even as we notice that fewer and fewer seem capable of mastering it.
The benefits of basic literacy, of course, are well-known and need no repeating here. What we would like to suggest, however, is that the community strive toward what we might call Literacy 2.0, which goes beyond the basic ability to translate the menu items off a fast-food marquee.
Literacy comes in two phases, the ability to read and the love of reading. Reading that is a chore bears little resemblance to the literacy where a reader hungrily gobbles up words on a page, searches for hidden meanings and toys with words as if they were building blocks to a castle.
As Baykan says, parents are key to raising a generation of energetic readers. Reaching the child is good, but reaching mom or dad is even better. If your family has no history of reading, why not start today? Start by reading a story. Parents who fear for their children’s chances in life should be encouraged to hear that the most positive thing they can do for them is also one of the least expensive.