What does it mean to be literate?

As a writer and a reader, I’ve always been passionate about advancing literacy. But what does that mean? Why does it matter if people can read?

Literacy to me, is more than being able to read. Literacy is being able to read well and easily. This is important because books, magazines, newspapers, and the internet are the key to accessing knowledge. These are tools that enable us to be our own teachers.

Everything you need for better future and success has already been written. And guess what? All you have to do is go to the library. ~Henri Frederic Amiel

But literacy is also about experience. Literate people who have read a broad range of books, fiction and non-fiction, are stronger in mind. It’s a cliche, but it’s true–you cannot live long enough to make all the mistakes yourself. And if you think of the mistakes that only you have made–is that really enough experience to make the best decisions? People with more experiences culled from books, the news, or other credible sources are more discerning, better able to keep in mind a broader perspective, the big picture.

A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face. It is one of the few havens remaining where a man’s mind can get both provocation and privacy. ~Edward P. Morgan

And literacy is also about enriching your life. Reading, increasing your knowledge while also experiencing ‘the arts’ makes you a more whole, complete person. Literature, poetry, as well as other forms of art: music, painting, acting, etc, supplements the other experiences in our lives. Just like vitamins.

In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S. I. Hayakawa

Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become. ~C. S. Lewis


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