Literacy is a 6th sense, essential to understanding the world that surrounds you in a coherent and rational manner. Literacy is not just flipping through textbooks, it is comprehending the news, reading a room, and ultimately the key to communication. How do you read the world around you? Do you comfortably flow through the torrent of our literary surroundings; or do you feel adrift and unheard when trying to illustrate your perceptions?

Today illiteracy is a festering problem. The UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) reported that in the year 2021, 770 million youth and adults remain deprived of the ability to read and write. In other words, approximately 1/7 people globally. Within my own community of Centre County, PA 11% of the population is functionally illiterate. In 2008 during my 3rd grade year my teachers informed my parents that I was below the basic reading levels and nearly 2 grades behind. I struggled to fit in the one-size fits all literary education provided by public schooling. If it were not for my mother’s perpetual home-lessons and encouragement, I would have given up on myself. I was pushed to read to my younger siblings, complete chapters on weekends, and reiterate these texts for more concise understanding (to my displeasure). With repetition and enrichment, I became confident in literary practices. By the 5th grade, I was placed in accelerated reading groups, and reading for my own leisure.

Communication is as much about comprehending what you hear as it is about conveying with clarity. No two people have the same experiences or outlooks on life, nonetheless we all have the irrefutable human need to connect with others. As humans our brains are not designed to read, but developing the capability is a powerful skill to hone. Without literacy, one is condemned to a restrictive domain of society. The World Literacy Report established in 2019 that illiterate adults financially make 32%-40% less than literate adults.

Regardless of literacy skill, we all have the right to be heard. Without understanding unity is hindered. Being able to convey desires, emotions, and ideas should not be a privilege, but a humanitarian right. Organizations like the Mid-state Literacy Council, UNESCO organization, and the World Literacy Report provide literacy opportunity for those with the desire to master their 6th sense.

By Montgomery Tew

Mid-State Literacy Council depends on the support of our community.