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Posts Tagged ‘bibliophile’

A massive wake up call… 493 million women worldwide cannot read this headline

For someone whose chosen career is to help authors publish meaningful books and connect those books with the readers they will benefit, I am, perhaps surprisingly, a fairly light reader. I love to read; I just haven’t done very much of it lately. Let me clarify – I haven’t read many books lately. I have a Kindle Fire with nearly 100 ebooks on it, but I use it mostly to check email and read articles and blog posts. My husband and I own hundreds of books – and I still buy them frequently enough. But sometime over the last few years, I’ve gotten out of the habit of making dedicated time to read books.

illiteracy

Until one Sunday about two months ago, when my husband and I decided to go to the library and explore. Since then, I’ve been reading more. But I still hadn’t committed to reading one book all the way through. I’m a reader who always has multiple books going at one time. One in my bag, one in the car, one by my bed, one in the bathroom (yes, the bathroom). Until my last visit to the library, when I picked up a brand new paperback copy of the 1996 novel Pope Joan, by Donna Woolfolk Cross.

This book captivated me from the first page. I’m now 143 pages into a book that truly lives up to that frequently-bandied-but-seldom-true description: page turner. It is the fictional account of the 9th century woman who disguised herself as a man and rose to become the only female to sit on the papal throne. Of course, detractors say her existence is mere myth – but whether she was an actual person or not has absolutely no bearing on this fantastic story.

The initial part of the story deals with Joan’s desire to become educated at a time when women were considered “by nature, quite incapable of reasoning.” … “Their natural humors, which are cold and moist, are unpropitious for cerebral activity. They cannot comprehend the higher spiritual and moral concepts.” (Pope Joan, p. 82)

So here’s this impactful story about a 9th century girl who bucks trends and odds to become educated when even most men could neither read nor write. She read not one, but at least three languages. And while her struggles were a  moving part of the story for me, they were simply plot points. Until, this morning, when I found myself pausing in amazement, yet again, that this story was devised from 26 characters that its author has turned into words that paint such vivid pictures that I can imagine the scenes as if I were watching a movie.

And then it hit me – what an utter misfortune it is for those who cannot read a book for pleasure. And then, of course, the next natural conclusion finally struck me: What about those who cannot read, period?

I set the book down and jumped online to do some basic research, and the statistics are amazing!

  • Approximately 14 percent – or 32 million – U.S. adults are unable to read.
  • In the U.S., two-thirds of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of fourth grade will end up in jail or on welfare.
  • One in four American children grow up without learning how to read.
  • Literacy is a learned skill. Illiteracy is passed down from parents who can neither read nor write.
  • As of 2011, the U.S. Was the only free-market OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) country where the current generation was less  educated than the previous one.
  • Nearly 85 percent of youths who face trial in the American juvenile court system are functionally illiterate.
  • More than 70 percent of America’s prison population cannot read above a fourth grade level.
  • Of Americans who receive food stamps, 75 percent perform in the lowest two levels of literacy, and 90 percent of high school dropouts are on welfare.
  • Teenage girls ages 16 to 19 with below-average literacy skills are six times more likely to get pregnant than girls their age who can read proficiently.
  • Reports show that low literacy directly costs the healthcare industry more than $70 million every year.
  • Long Beach, California has been ranked the country’s most illiterate city, followed by Mesa, Arizona (neighbor to my home city of Phoenix), and Aurora, Colorado.
  • Worldwide, 774 million people are unable to read – 66 percent of them (or 493 million) are women.

I don’t know about you, but I’m inspired to do something about this. ProLiteracy is one place to begin. Or you can do a search for Literacy Volunteers in your area.

Definitely more on this to come – maybe even my next book. A bit ironic, isn’t it?

Laura

RESOURCES

https://beta.dosomething.org/facts/11-facts-about-literacy-america

http://www.statisticbrain.com/number-of-american-adults-who-cant-read

http://www.proliteracy.org/the-crisis/overview

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14 reasons I love books…

What better time to celebrate our love for books than Valentine’s Day?

Here’s a collection of gorgeous book images, with a little about how I came to be a book person, why I read, what I read, and how I read. Please share your own similar stories in the Comments section below.

Book-Love 10

I taught myself to read at about age 4 because I wanted to be able to read the comics in the Sunday paper to myself. I had my dad read me the same Golden Books again and again so I could memorize the words.

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Book-Love 3

I was in second grade when my dad took me to the library for my first “research project” on the Great White Shark. He taught me how to use the card catalogue so I could find my own way around the library later. It worked. I seldom needed help again.

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Book-Love 1

My favorite thing about elementary school was the chance to order new books through the Scholastic Book Club leaflet. The longest days of the school year were the days between handing in my form with my dad’s check, and the day that magical brown box showed up on the teacher’s desk so she could distribute our books.

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Book-Love 2

Summers were spent reading 40, 50, as many as 100 books as part of the library’s Summer Reading Program. Encyclopedia Brown. Nancy Drew. Madeleine L’Engle. Laura Ingalls Wilder. I read them all…

“You have to write the book that wants to be written.
And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups,
then you write it for children.”
– Madeleine L’Engle

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Book-Love 6

I met my best friend in a summer program at ASU between eighth grade and our freshman year in high school. The classes we took together included an etymology class and a sentence-combining seminar. My writing improved vastly that summer! I went from an average of 6 words per sentence to an average of 21 words per sentence. Thirty-some years later, I still find the information and processes I learned in those classes helpful.

Jane lived in a small Southern Arizona town; I lived in Phoenix. This was before the Internet. So we wrote letters – the old-fashioned kind with ink and paper. Jane’s letters were long, funny missives in purple ink, most of which I still have.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When I began at the University of Arizona, each freshman was required to take a Library Skills course. Again, this was pre-Internet. The course was supposed to take up to 21 hours to complete. I did mine inside of 3 hours – and I remember being very grateful to my dad at the time.

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Book-Love 5

I’m not a person who can read just one book at a time. At any given moment, I’ve got a book in the bathroom, one in my shoulder bag, and at least one on my nightstand. That doesn’t even take into account the Kindle.

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Book-Love 7

I read all kinds of things – fiction and nonfiction. Love stories, historical novels, literary fiction. Spiritual books, marketing and business books, political books, personal growth books. Our reading taste is one place my husband and I diverge. He reads music biographies and autobiographies, as well as horror/thrillers from Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and the like.

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Book-Love 8

Did anyone ever finish The Thorn Birds? When I read it, I got within about 50 pages of the end of Colleen McCollough’s 692-page tome before simply losing interest. I didn’t intend to abandon the book; it just happened. But then I began asking all my friends who’d read it/were reading it, and no one finished the thing. The first book I ever quit on purpose was Pat Conroy’s Beach Music. Having really enjoyed Prince of Tides, I had high expectations for this book. It was boring and tedious from the start. I kept thinking it would get better, but by page 120, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. It was a big deal to give myself permission to quit reading a book. So glad I finally got over that issue.

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Book-Love 13

I love libraries and bookstores because I love the touch and feel of books. I love knowing that people spent hours researching and writing them. I love the thought that I might be one of hundreds of people to read a single library book. I love the concept of BookCrossing.

It’s really astonishing to think that all our communication, all the English-language books and letters, are derived from 26 little symbols:
a – b – c – d – e – f – g – h – i – j – k – l – m – n – o – p – q – r – s – t – u – v – w – x – y -z.

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Book-Love 9

I love that books can take us places, create visions, share knowledge, engage ideas – in short, call us to a higher purpose. Certainly not every book serves those roles, but they are, to be sure, the books toward which I gravitate. And in my work with self-publishing authors, my goal is to work with socially conscious authors and would-be authors.

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Book-Love 11

Chick lit is my guilty pleasure – along with romantic comedies, when it comes to movies. But good stories with well-drawn characters. Remember, I’m not afraid to drop a book like a hot tamale if it’s not worthy of my time. I bought 50 Shades of Grey out of curiosity. Didn’t make it past the first gawdawful chapter. One massively underrated book is Helen Fielding’s (Bridget Jones) first novel, Cause Celeb.

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Book-Love 12

This weekend my sister, husband, and I will attend the 58th annual VNSA Book Sale in Phoenix, where we’ll surely by a couple dozen more books. We had a yard sale in the fall which allowed us to clear out space in our floor-to-ceiling bookcases, so now there’s at least a little room for the newcomers!

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Book-Love 14

While I fully appreciate the ease, necessity, practicality, and inevitability of ebooks, printed books will always be first, and forever, in my heart.

Happy Valentine’s Day to the readers, writers, authors, and book lovers among us!

Laura

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