Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Today I read

Today I read.

I read many things.

I read a newspaper.

I read the nutritional information on the pasta salad box.

I read the laundry instructions on a garment I was considering buying.

I read a recipe to make dinner.

And I read a book. Well, not exactly this one, but it was a novel.

Being able to read is something I take for granted but I shouldn't. I heard a show recently about Radio Al-Mahaba, the only women's radio station in Iraq. It was started by one brave woman and is manned by her and thirty others as a voice for women in a war-ravaged country. Their goal is to educate women about their rights and to entertain them as well. Why radio? Because 75% of women in Iraq are illiterate. The former regime kept them uneducated in order to keep them subservient and uninformed. Many of these women are staying indoors most of the time out of fear for their safety. Radio Al-Mahaba is their only community and it is in danger of closing because their transmitter was the victim of a car bombing.

Imagine if three out of every four women you knew could not read a recipe or a newspaper article or the latest New York Times bestseller. And if you can't read, you most likely can't write. You can't make out a grocery list. You can't write an excuse for your child's absence from school. You can't address a birthday card to a family member.

Before you think the problem is limited to other countries, listen to this statistic: one in seven Americans can barely read a utility bill or the classified ads in the newspaper. They are among the more than forty million functionally illiterate citizens of this country.

What can be done?

For one, if you are in the area you can attend the “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing at the RWA Conference in Atlanta on July 26, 2006 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. in the Atlanta Marriott Marquis hotel. Over 500 romance fiction authors will be autographing their books, which are donated by the publishers. The proceeds of the sales are distributed to literacy charities. To date RWA has raised approximately $450,000 for literacy. Let's try to hit the half-million dollar mark this year.

A list of authors in attendance can be found here. Obviously I won't be signing anything (unless someone drags out a copy of True Confessions magazine) but I'll be there, getting copies of books from favorite authors and doing my part to stamp out illiteracy in this country.

Hope to see you there.



Problem Child said...

Books are such a huge part of my life, I can't imagine not being able to read.

I love the RWA lit signing--it's fun to meet all the authors, yes, but to think that money will help give others the joy of reading as

That's why I'm also glad HOD supports Mother Read, a program that shows the importance of reading with your children and how books can make you a better parent.

AC taught herself to read. She even has her own library card. Books are very important around here.

Now, if I could get someone to read MY book... :-)

Smarty Pants said...

I couldn't imagine not being able to read. It is such a large part of my life and not just because I'm a writer and book lover. Words are everywhere.

I enjoy the lit signing as well. That and the HOD book signing are one of the few times I will buy books without thinking about the price because I know the money goes to a great cause and I get a minute with any author I want in the process. Can't beat that.

I'm exciting to be volunteering at the lit fair this year too. Several of the Playfriends will be working the signing, so watch for the t-shirts and proudly displayed buttons. You never know what it will get you...


Linda Winstead Jones said...

At my first national conference, a woman spoke about growing up not being able to read. She came to this country and learned, as an adult, and she told us how important it was to her. I don't think there was a dry eye in the house. I don't remember her name or where she was from, but I have never forgotten what she had to say.


Kathy said...

Your blog reminds me that women long ago were taunted for reading and strengthening their minds. And yet Mr. Darcy told Elizabeth that his idea of the perfect woman would be a woman who constantly enriched her mind through reading.

I started reading to my son when he was born. I used to sit him in his infant seat and read poetry and children's stories. Sadly, he loved listening to me so much he never wanted to read for himself until he got much older. But those hours spent together were wonderful and I remember them well even now. Though I read to my other children, there is nothing to compare with what my firstborn and I shared.

Reading is so much more than the texture of a book in one's hand. It takes us beyond what we know. It is seeing, imagining, and hearing all wrapped in one tiny bound gift. Would that everyone in the world could experience life and all it's excess in such a way. And may we all be able to bring stories to life for the many generations of those who can read.

I'm looking forward to working at the Lit signing, too. I'll see you there.


Angel said...

It's hard to imagine that my 6 year old can do something that 75% of women in Iraq can't. My heart hurts for how limiting and demeaning that must be.

I agree with SP. Only at the Lit signing and HOD Luncheon do I not even glance at the price of a book. It feels really good knowing that I'm helping someone else out.

I'm excited about running and fetching for authors this year. I can't wait, especially now that Kathy has assured me my outfit doesn't make me look fat. :) Y'all have to look for my pin, because I'm not wearing my t-shirt.

Instigator said...

Reading has become so important to me. It's hard to imagine millions of people not being able to do it. That's sad. And something I simply don't take enough time to consider during a normal day.

I agree with everyone else, that's one reason why working at the lit signing and our HOD lucheon is so important.


Sheryl M said...

Sadly, I will not be at the conference. (I have not joined RWA yet) But I do know what having a functioning illiterate in your family is like. My father-in-law can not read, but it is due to severe dyslexia. He can see letters just fine, until there is more than one. So yes, it is extremely limiting. His wife only has about a 6th grade education if that, so I balance their checkbook and make all "important" calls for them. My oldest child also struggles in reading. Her comprehension is about a year and a half behind what it should be, and thats so hard for me because I am such an avid reader. I am thankful that my mother instilled a love of books in me at such an early age, and I intend to carry on the tradition!! Also, PC I would gladly read your book, however, I know you want someone in a publishing house to love it too!!