WORD: World Literacy Day 2016


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Water pump art installation, Corolla, NC, 2012

Water pump art installation, Corolla, NC, 2012

Yesterday I stopped at both the library and the bookstore.  Today I did so as well.

Yesterday I consulted recipes for split pea and ham soup and corn muffins.  Today I will use a recipe for chicken étouffée.  (Last week I mailed a recipe for vegetable soup to someone, enclosed in a long letter.)

Yesterday I worked on a crochet item from a pattern for a possible Christmas gift.  Today, when the chores are finished, I will continue with that.

Yesterday and today I wrote in my Morning Pages journal.

Yesterday and today I completed the bite-sized NYT crossword in under a minute.

Every single one of those activities – just part of my normal daily routine, nothing extraordinary – depend upon literacy.  Because I can read and write in my native tongue with ease I have the means to shape my life, to explore various ideas and horizons.  With concentrated effort I can read and write a bit in two other languages which opens up still more vistas.

My life without language would be inconceivable.

When I realized today is World Literacy Day, Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan came immediately to mind.  A little girl rendered deaf, blind, and mute by an illness in infancy was given LIFE when Miss Sullivan signed the letters to spell ‘water’ as she held the girl’s hand beneath a streaming pump.

In handing little Helen Keller the tools to identify, explore, and explain the world Anne Sullivan connected her to herself, to others, and to Nature.

There are those for whom the challenge in learning to read and write is not due to a deficit in sight, hearing, or speech, but is a problem of “translation.”  For some the brain mixes signals and breaks all the lines and curves of written language into an incomprehensible forest of fragments.  Something similar happens for strangers in a strange land.

With patience and imagination these challenges can be, will be, overcome.

With patience, imagination, and literacy individuals and communities bring great assets to the world.

World Literacy Day.  Read.  Write.

Support your local library system.


Barbara Butler McCoy, c. 2016