The Importance Of Literacy

The Importance Of Literacy

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Rita Mae Brown describes literacy as,
"a social contract, an agreed upon representation of certain symbols" (420). If
the symbol's (letters) meanings are not agreed upon by those attempting to
communicate, then interpreting one another becomes difficult. Simply stated,
literacy is very important. Society has proven time and time again, it will
reward those individuals who are competent and impede those who are not, whether
expressed in terms of employment opportunities (job success) or just on a social
     One need look no further than their everyday activities in order to
realize how important literary skills are. Without adequate literary skills one
may not be able to identify on a label the correct amount of medicine to give a
child, or read and interpret a sign giving instructions on what to do in case of
a fire. These two examples bring perspective to literacy's importance.
Nevertheless, recent surveys have indicated that, "4.5 million Canadians,
representing 24 percent of the eighteen-and-over group, can be considered
illiterate" ("Adult Illiteracy" 5). Illiteracy is truly a problem within Canada.
Although many groups are working to render the problem of illiteracy, much work
still lies ahead.
     As our society moves on into the next century literacy is proving vital
to economic performance. Without basic literary skills in one's possession they
will become lost in our rapidly changing society. The modern worker must be
able to adapt to the changing job-scene. This often means gathering new skills
and knowledge from printed material, whether instruction manuals, computer
programs, or classroom training (text books). It is quite commonly the case
that highly skilled jobs require a high level of literacy. Therefore, literary
skill level is an important factor in predicting an individual's economic
success. It will affect an individual's income, their employment stability and
whether they even receive employment opportunities.
     Presently, our world revolves around literacy. Simply being literate
allows one to continuously upgrade one's literary skills to a higher level. It
allows one to stay informed of happenings in and around the world through
mediums such as newspapers and magazines. Knowing current news about what is
going on in this ever changing world of ours is the key to staying ahead.
Another thought to ponder is this, we rely on those with high literacy levels to
record and document findings and happenings for future generations to reflect on.
These writings would most likely be dull and inaccurate or would not exist at
all without our current levels of literacy.
     When viewed from a social standpoint, literacy remains just as important
as when viewed from the economic standpoint. Linda Macleod of the National
Associations Active in Criminal Justice, points out that, "65 percent of people

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entering Canadian prisons for the first time have trouble reading and writing,
low literacy is part of a constellation of problems that can limit choices in
life and thus lead people to criminal activity" (20). Somebody in possession of
a high level of literacy will most likely be well informed and tend to make
wiser decisions. By obtaining this level of literacy they have also gathered a
large vocabulary giving them many words to choose from to express their ideas
and feelings. Conversely, many would agree that a conversation with one who has
a good grasp of the English language is always more delightful than with one who
is less educated.
     Literacy can act as a window, opening one's view to the world.
Presently, we are being bombarded with information, news, trivia and gossip (not
that this is always a positive feature in our lives). Without sufficient
literary skills one cannot even absorb any of this information. These people
will miss out on many of life's benefits, socially as well as economically.
Without sufficient literary skills one would have a tremendously difficult time
functioning in our current world. Think about your average day, consider how
many times you refer to your literary skills to aid you, could you function
without those skills? Finding an address, reading a map, reading a menu,
performing a bank transaction, these are just a few common tasks that require
your literary skills.
     Also, when looking at the importance of literacy to our nation, its
value is evident. High levels of literacy throughout all sectors of Canada's
workforce are necessary, "low literacy levels of workers' affect Canada's
ability to perform in the increasingly competitive international marketplace"
("Literacy" 7). Literary skills become building blocks. First creating a well-
educated society, then a highly skilled labour force which can compete and adapt
to the changing market. These factors lead to an increase in economic growth
within the nation which in turn, results in a higher standard of living for its
     As our society moves forward into the future, a higher level of literacy
will become more important to one's level of success. Where would our society
be without our ability to exchange knowledge and information? How many times
have you made a purchase that read on the outside - instructions inside? You
and I think nothing of this, and in a sense take our gift for granted. For many,
deciphering written instructions is a near impossible task, asking for
assistance does little more than to further lower their self esteem. Literacy
is important. To truly seize the benefits possible in one's life it has to be
accepted that literacy is the key. Society will continue to reward skilled
individuals and disadvantage those who are not.
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