Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Sri Lankan Literacy Rate

A simple Google search yields:
"Sri Lanka's population has a literacy rate of 92%, higher than that expected for a third world country; it has the highest literacy rate in South Asia and overall, one of the highest literacy rates in Asia."
Sri Lankans have been proud of this statistic for as long as I can remember. I was reading this article that quotes James Baldwin as having said:
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me the most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”
How true. Reading, to me as opened up a link to an outside world I would not have otherwise known or seen. But most importantly felt. It has given me an avenue to feel empathy, learn about human emotion and character. I dare even hope, helped build my own character. Ultimately helped face my own torments in life and emerge stronger.

The article really got my thinking about something that has been nagging at me for a while now. How many people do we know who proudly proclaim they do not have time to read. "I do not read" they say, "I am too busy." This makes me cringe. Smile politely. Sympathetically. It makes me upset our future generations are losing out on the beautiful literature, regardless of which language, which culture, which time period they belong to if our adults are taking this attitude. How do we have a population that boasts of 92% literacy rate and refuses to learn anything. Read a newspaper, at least.

What can we do? Push more for library use? Buy books for kids, encourage reading among our peers? Read more ourselves. I try to set myself reading goals, for weeks, months - the year. Share books we've read. In this day and age where reading material is plenty abound, why do we hide behind the "busy" excuse. It comes down to managing our time, and a real thirst for knowledge. It would mean less susceptibility to the unspeakable horrors of our times, openness and acceptance of diversity and differences.

It would make us better voters, and ultimately make us demand more substance from the very people who rule us. Blatant abuse could not be so widespread if we as a nation could be more aware. More literate, not because we can all read and write, but because we read thoughts and understand meanings. Think over ideas. Consider our own views and respect someone else for theirs.

"But reading texts is not the same as reading a text.
There is no intellectual equivalent to allowing oneself the time and space to get lost in another person’s mind, because in so doing we find ourselves."