Friday, 13 January 2012

What if you couldn't read?



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!


16 comments:

  1. Well said. I can't imagine what it must be like not to be able to read. I often offer a heartfelt thank you to my mother for teaching me to read at such an early age and for giving me my love of the written word.

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  2. I can't rememebr learning to read, but obviously I did, but years ago I knew an elderly gentleman who could neither read nor write. He told me he'd never needed to bother. He lived until he was nearly 90!

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  3. It's hard to believe there are people in developed nations that still can't read, but I know they exist. Their coping skills must be extraordinary. But it's very much the same with my father. He is incredibly hard of hearing but he manages to fool some people because he has developed the ability to read lips. If you talk behind his back though, he has no idea what you're saying. :P

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  4. If I couldn't read, I probably wouldn't care all that much. Ignorance is bliss. There's a reason why that saying is around. You just wouldn't have the education to know any better and what you were missing.

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  5. I have to thank my parents too. Early on my dad would take me to the public library. All the books were bound in read leather or fake leather. It was that long ago. I will never forget the thrill I felt as entered that quiet place, full of red books to be read.

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  6. It's hard to imagine being unable to read. My big fear is that I'll lose my eyesight in some way as I age and be unable to read a book or knit or any of that close work I do constantly. You know that question, "Would you rather be deaf or blind?" No contest. Deaf!

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  7. I've never seriously entertained the idea of laser eye surgery because it would be so horrific to no longer be able to read if something were to go wrong. We are very lucky we have this gift. I remember how when we would complain as children of nothing to do, both of my parents would advise us to read. And we would.

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  8. Yes. I'd feel so lost and empty without this skill (blessing). Thanks for the reminder.
    xoRobyn

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  9. I can't imagine a world without reading. The limitations, the frustrations and the sheer awfulness of not being able to understand so much of what is around us.

    I can't imagine a world without the books that take my imagination to a new level, to escape to other worlds...and I can't imagine a world without words that I can shape into stories and that I can communicate with.....

    Good post Ros!

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  10. Hi Ros .. nor can I - I'd hate not to be able to read .. but people learn and can learn - if there's a will - there's a way.

    I have huge admiration for people who come to this country and have to learn to speak English, let alone write it ..

    Thankfully I can .. though I know personally a few who are very dyslexic .. most get over it one way or the other .. some feel hard done by in life - in this country there's no excuse for them not to get help and learn to adapt.

    I felt lost in Czechoslovakia in 1974 or thereabouts - as I couldn't read the signs at all .. and had no clue where I was; then again in Greece - where by sheer deciphering and remembering the letters I could work out which bus we should catch to go places.

    It's interesting to be reminded of our fortune .. being English and being able to read and speak ..

    Cheers Hilary

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  11. I love what you said about how reading became an escape for your Mum after she became ill. I had never thought about that. What a blessing for her.

    BTW, I gave you an award on my blog today.

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  12. My son aged 7 struggles with reading - not dyslexic, but just lazy and uninterested, even though I've always read to him, and he loves his bedtime stories (all the things I'm supposed to do as a mum).

    He's starting to improve now, but for a while I sort of panicked, wondering how he would even manage to get through the rest of primary school. He just didn't see the point of reading, and was very happy to tell people he couldn't read, as though that excused him.

    My happiest day recently was when I realised he was reading out the street signs to himself. I realised then how lucky I am that I found reading came naturally.

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  13. What a wonderful post. It's true, literacy is so important and something that's easy to take for granted if you've got it. I was lucky to be raised in a home full of books, and it's sad to think that some kids have none. I'm doing an event with Reach Out And Read next month to try to help a little in the effort to help kids read. Every child and every adult should have that skill.

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  14. I think you've said it nicely. Without reading, I'd be so lost. I know people used to do it all the time, but in today's society where we travel so much and new things pop up everywhere is so important that we know how to read.

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  15. So true. I've taught a few kids who have such severe learning disabilities, they have a hard time reading beyong the very basics. It's such a struggle for them.

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  16. It is hard to imagine not being able to read. I like what you said - Once she entered the pages of a book she could be anyone and go anywhere. When I write I want to take readers into another world.

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