March Is Literacy Month


(While I was President of Bonners Ferry Rotary in 2010-2011, I enjoyed reading a brief  article written by a Rotary officer from New Jersey. I regret that I do not know his or her name..Bill M)

In 1985, Rotary declared basic literacy to be a precondition to the development of peace. Through this organizational emphasis, more than half the world’s 33,000 Rotary clubs address the full range of literacy and mathematical challenges on a daily basis.

What Is Literacy?

The definition of literacy has evolved from "the ability to read and use printed materials at an extremely basic level" to "using printed and written information to function in society, to achieve one's goals and to develop one's knowledge and potential" (2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy).

Defining literacy in our changing world is not easy. Several years ago, being literate meant being able to read and write a little. Now, being literate means being able to read and write at a level to be successful in today's world and also being proficient at math, knowing how to use technology, and knowing how to solve problems and make decisions.

Literacy is...

•Getting a Driver's License

•Achieving Citizenship

•Bonding With Your Children

•Learning A New Skill

•Being An Informed Citizen

•Connecting And Empowering

•Developing Self Esteem And Growth

•Finding The Key To Success

•Having The World At Your Fingertips

•Filling Out An Employment Application

•Reading The Label On A Prescription Bottle

Why Does Illiteracy Exist?

The answers are as varied as the number of functionally illiterate adults. The adult non-reader may have left school early, may have had a physical or emotional disability, may have had ineffective teachers or teaching methods, or may simply have been unready to learn at the time reading instruction began. Because they are unable to help their children learn, parents who can't read often perpetuate the intergenerational cycle of illiteracy. Without books, newspapers or magazines in the home and a parent who reads to serve as a role model, many children grow up with severe literacy deficiencies. Clearly, there is no single cause of illiteracy.

National Literacy Data...

A mother's literacy level is one of the most significant predictors of a child's future literacy - more significant than income level and employment status. (Pennsylvania State Literacy Survey, Education Testing Service, 1995)

Workers 18 and over with a bachelor's degree earn an average of $51,206 a year, while those with a high school diploma earn $27,915. Those without a high school diploma average $18,734. (U.S. Census Bureau)

Children of adults who participate in literacy programs improve their grades and test scores, improve their reading skills, and are less likely to drop out of school (National Institute for Literacy- NIFL).  

A rise of 1% in literacy scores leads to a 2.5% rise in labor productivity (The Economist, August 28, 2004).

American businesses currently spend more than $60 billion each year on employee training, much of that for remedial reading, writing, and mathematics (Pro-Literacy Worldwide).

Six of the ten fastest growing occupations listed by the US Department of Labor in its employment projections through 2012 require an associate's or bachelor's degree (U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, 2004).

Approximately 44 million people in the United States cannot read well enough to fill out an application, read a food label, or read a simple story to a child (National Adult Literacy Survey).

Literacy problems cost the U.S. businesses about $225 billion a year in lost productivity. These costs result from employee mistakes, injuries, absenteeism, tardiness, missed opportunities, and other problems associated with low literacy (U.S. Department of Labor).

Literacy Elements...

As information and technology have increasingly shaped our society, the skills we need to function successfully have gone beyond reading, and literacy has come to include the skills listed in the current definition (The Workforce Investment Act of 1998 and National Institute of Literacy).

Literacy elements include...








Rotary and Literacy...

Illiteracy lies at the root of poverty, ranking as one  of the prime impediments to earning a living and having a productive life. An estimated one billion people - three fifths of them women - do not have the literacy and numeric skills needed to hold a job or get a better one. Helping people learn these skills and become self-sufficient is one of the most critical tools for fighting poverty.

Because girls do not have access to education in many parts of the world, providing women with literacy skills can have far-reaching positive effects. A mother who can read will teach her children to read, helping to break the cycle of poverty for her family. Although 98 percent of the world’s illiterate live in developing countries, more than one-third of the adults in industrialized countries cannot read well enough to decipher prescriptions or fill out employment forms.

As Rotarians, we need to continue to provide the necessary "Service Above Self" needed to eliminate illiteracy and be reminded of the wisdom of Sir Winston Churchill - "We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give."

Let's all join and declare to make basic literacy a yearly goal for all our clubs.

We as Rotarians in Bonners Ferry are proud to support literacy by organizing, hosting, and funding projects that support our schools and the community.  As an example, in 2013, we provided over $13,000 in college scholarships.