For several years I taught adult literacy and yet I still can’t truly imagine what it would be like to not be able to understand the written word. The nearest I’ve come to experiencing it is when I’m in a foreign country and even then I can have a go at deciphering words, especially if they use the same alphabet as us, because I have the decoding skills.
But without those decoding skills I’d be lost... literally when it comes to travelling. Which is the correct bus stop? Which underground train do I want? What street am I walking down? Where is the nearest public toilet? How can I order food in a cafe or restaurant? The list of obstacles is endless.
We were once in France and went into a Moule Restaurant. I now know what Moule means and I’ve also learnt to say “Mon mari est mal avec des moules.” He’s allergic to muscles so I hope that translated correctly. They seemed to understand because they showed us the door.
Which brings me to the kitchen. What’s in that packet? Does it contain wheat? Is it still in date? Are the little pictures clear enough to show me how to cook it? And how would I remember what I need to buy from the shops? I could dictate a shopping list onto my mobile but how do I do that? It’s hard enough to work out how to use all those obscure facilities on mobile phones even with the ability to read the screen! And listening to a shopping list is really not the same as scanning my eyes across a piece of paper.
I could go on but I think you’re getting the gist by now, so I’d like to say a big thank you to my teachers for teaching me to read and to my Mum for instilling in me a love of reading. Books meant everything to Mum, especially as she got older. They helped her to escape from a world of illness and immobility. Once she entered the pages of a book she could be anyone and go anywhere. Everyone reading this now can do that too. Aren’t we lucky!