Column: What We Say

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 16, 1998

L’Observateur / April 16, 1998


It’s amazing when one realizes just how many people there are out there who either have poor reading skills or simply cannot read. Most adultstake for granted their ability to read, but it’s something learned, often with great effort. However, once one does learn to read, and read well, theworld opens up before that person.

There are people working in restaurants who cannot read the cash register, requiring the restaurants to have picture-type cash registers.

The cashier, for example, hits the french-fries key to enter the cost of the fries, instead of typing in the amount of the cost.

Many restaurant menus include photographs of the food offered so patrons may point to the desired items instead of being embarrassed into revealing that they cannot read.

And technology is making it easier for people. Digital watches aresometimes used by people who cannot read a standard watch face. Tryexplaining “clockwise” and “counter-clockwise” to a person only familiar with digital clocks and watches.

Pocket calculators being used in mathematics classes make it easier for people to not have to learn how to do math. They learn how to work acalculator instead.

There are programs out there to help adults and teen-agers acquire these basic skills and bring themselves up to par with what should be standard educational abilities.

It’s too easy to blame the schools for the lack of some people’s ability to read, write and perform basic math functions. That blame can be shared byparents and by the students themselves when they are not motivated to learn.

With these skills, opportunities multiply for people, not only with jobs but also in cultural pleasures. People can grow intellectually andspiritually through having this knowledge. The worlds of history,philosophy and literature enrich any life, and it’s a crime to deny these to anyone.

Tragically, there are also people who lose these abilities through accidents, such as brain injuries, and have to re-learn what may have been lost.

People do not need to be ashamed in not being able to read, write or do math. They need to get involved in the available programs, such asOperation Mainstream, the YMCA Educational Services or adult education classes through public school systems.

Often, people who cannot read are quite creative in covering up that fact.

This demonstrates there’s nothing wrong with their minds. They just needto direct that energy into getting that knowledge so they no longer have to cover up.

Imagine, if you will, picking up this newspaper and not having the ability to comprehend the words before you. Imagine not being able to fill out ajob application or read a menu or help your child with his homework.

Imagine the anguish and the embarrassment and the emotional pain of spending years trying to disguise that fact.

Then, imagine the world opening up before you, as comprehension dawns and enlightenment brings joy to your eyes.

If you know someone in that situation, help them to get help. It can be thebest gift ever. The joys of reading and learning are gifts which last alifetime.

Return To News Stories