Putting illiteracy to rest

Published 3:44 pm Monday, March 22, 2010

Illiteracy is alive and well in our nation, a silent plague among us.

Jane Bailey is on a mission to kill illiteracy. She has commanded all her resources to bury it forever.

Bailey, librarian at the Columbiana Public Library, held a mock funeral for illiteracy in an effort to raise awareness and kick-off The Big Read, a nationwide program aimed at encouraging more people to read.

“The facts about illiteracy in our nation are shocking,” said Bailey. “Twenty percent of us are functionally illiterate – that’s 1 in 5 Americans, folks. Seventy-five percent of unemployed adults have difficulty with reading and writing. According to current estimates, the number of functionally illiterate adults is increasing by approximately two and a quarter million persons each year.”

Signs are all over Columbiana asking you to take part in The Big Read, a national effort for Americans to read and discuss one book at the same time, “Tom Sawyer,” by Mark Twain.

We have become a culture of Twitter, Facebook, Ipods and TV. In our society of instant gratification –– fast food, microwaves and Google –– taking time to read a whole book is foreign to so many. Bailey and The Big Read encourage us to read for pleasure and enlightenment.

Illiteracy’s funeral was traditional. Pallbearers carried the coffin for illiteracy.

Bailey gave the eulogy and traditional “funeral foods” were served: friend chicken, casseroles, deviled eggs and lots of desserts.

Bailey spoke of specific things to help bury illiteracy and raise readers: read aloud to your children and let your children see you reading; get a library card and take your children to the library; discuss books with your children; participate in free programs at the library like Storytime; and create a reading space at home.

Bailey ended the eulogy with the following poignant words. “Here lies the immortal spirit of illiteracy that once filled our land.

Stopped, none too soon, by people determined to rise above their impoverished circumstances. Sad to say, illiteracy will not be missed. But rather, those left behind will celebrate their new found freedom.”

Phoebe Robinson can be reached by e–mail at phoeberobinson@bellsouth.net.