Literature opens the door to another world | Editorial

Literature. It’s one of the beautiful things that separate humans from the rest of the animal kingdom.

Literature is also an escape. Curling up on a couch, we read stories of adventure or love and we drift away into the pages of another realm. Roald Dahl immortalized the importance of books in “Matilda,” when he wrote “[her] strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.”

And if that’s not enough to get you to the library, according to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, books make better people.

Two-thirds of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of the 4th grade will end up in jail or on welfare.

According to the Department of Justice, “the link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure.” Over 70 percent of inmates in America’s prisons cannot read above a fourth grade level.

And the facts get more dismal.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 53 percent of children ages three to five were read to daily by a family member.

The estimated cost of illiteracy to taxpayers and businesses is $20 billion per year. Seventy five percent of Fortune 500 companies provide some level of remedial training for an estimated 8 million workers at an estimated cost of $300 million per year, according to Laubach Literacy Action.

Thirty four million adults function at below basic literacy levels, meaning they are unable to complete simple literacy tasks such as filling out a job application or a deposit slip or reading a prescription label, according to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy.

In our community, there is hope for literacy. The literacy alignment project for pre-school to third graders, led by Dave Matteson, is happening at Orcas Island School District with the help of several passionate islanders. This project is a national movement to develop the cognitive and social skills for children that establish strong foundations for future learning.

And when reading thrives, that is where the magic of the castaway “Robinson Crusoe,” Aladdin’s lamp of “One Thousand and One Nights,” and the Sneetches of Dr. Suess will live forever.