The Value Of Literacy

from Issue #1, April 2016, page # 25

by Kendall Myers

For judgment I have come into the world, that those who do not see may see. — John 9:39.

A picture that I’ve posted on the wall behind my desk at school reminds me of the profound value of literacy. The black and white sketch depicts a woman that I would guess to be in her sixties bent over a booklet, tracing its lines carefully with her finger. Every line on her face speaks to the intensity of her desire to make out the meaning of the text on the page before her. In my mind, she is someone who has just been taught the rudimentary elements of reading, probably for the purpose of reading the Scriptures. For her entire life, a transparent yet impenetrable space has existed between her eyes and words on a page and now, though it is hard work, her face shows the joy of being able to see the pictures that emerge as she pieces together the textual puzzle.

Literacy, in the strictest sense, is simply the ability to read and write; but in a fuller sense, it is the ability to grasp a piece of writing in its entirety and understand its relationship to its larger context, to engage critically with the information in the text—to analyze and evaluate, and to respond creatively with writing that synthesizes that information with one’s previous knowledge and articulates it in an accurate and compelling way.

In a world where literacy rates have risen dramatically over the last 100 years (from around 25% to around 84%), it can be easy for us to take this privilege for granted and assume that all of our children will become fully literate somewhat automatically. Living in the 21st century though, is no more a guarantee of becoming literate than any other century. If we take the opportunity to learn to read and write well for granted, we are in danger of devaluing these skills and lapsing into complacency in regards to the standards that we hold for our children in these areas.

As followers of Jesus and ambassadors of His kingdom, we have the highest motivation to read and write with excellence. We are called to learn continually about God and to build His kingdom in the world. We have a vision and message to articulate— let’s cultivate the tools that we have available for these tasks—the ability to read and write.

— from The Scholastic Scoop, a publication of the Waynesboro Mennonite School 

Practical Questions: 

  1. Is the ability to read essential to being a good follower of Jesus?
  2. Should a literate person read the Bible every day?

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