Why is literacy important?

Updated: 11/6/2022
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6y ago

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Literacy (reading and writing competence) is important because it allows the communication of information and ideas in a manner which is persistent and independent; a voice can be heard when spoken, but what happens to the information it imparts for posterity? Where is the voice without the speaker?

If the information can be recorded, it can be disseminated to a wider audience, or repeatedly, for an indefinite time ever after. The written word is harder to misinterpret when employed effectively, and does not change with time as with 'word of mouth', where information can become distorted through inaccurate retelling and interpretation.

Electronic recording and rich media require sophisticated equipment, power sources, and storage media. Hand-made images might impart a lot of information, but they take time to create and can be misinterpreted. With large libraries of information, images and rich media become difficult (or impossible) to index without some form of ordinal/symbolic system to determine order and summarise content.

The ability to write is essential to long-distance or time-delayed communication, whether it be a shopping list pinned to the fridge or an email to a goods supplier. Attempting to convey relevant information via stick-man doodles would be time-consuming and confusing.

Likewise, knowing what you need to shop for, or understanding your supplier's response, is better facilitated by being able to quickly scan and understand a series of written words than by having someone who IS literate read everything back to you. If you are unable to read in the first place, it is unlikely that you'll have status or wealth enough to afford a full-time assistant for this purpose.

Besides impeding your daily interactions, illiteracy would stunt your potential and deny you access to education and entertainment. It's all well and good that you can enjoy a Hollywood action flick without being literate, but without knowing what the movie is called, what it's about, where it's being screened, what time, or how much a ticket is... well, you're going to be watching random television adverts alone at home while everybody else cheers on the Avengers, aren't you?

Illiteracy can shorten your life. You wouldn't last long in a world where warning and danger signs are just so much colourful junk, would you? Sure, the images and colours help convey the important information, but if you can figure out what colours and shapes mean, why not go all-in and learn what the little squiggly bits are all about, too? It could make the difference between watching for loose rocks underfoot, for instance, or falling to your death because you were looking up instead, or being electrocuted because you thought the imminent death warning was a Flash Gordon poster.

Finally, when that letter comes from your long-lost auntie who has left her seven-digit fortune to you in her will... you wouldn't want to dump that unread into the recycling bin with the junk mail would you?

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6y ago
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12y ago

So you don't use a sentence like that again.

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Q: Why is literacy important?
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