TJ is a writer living in Portland, OR.


Literacy privilege is another things which seems kinda obvious but I had never before considered till a friend posted a link to this blog post from Painting the Grey Area through Facebook. There are some good points in there:

  1. Language is a living system that changes, it's rules are not permanent.
  2. How people use language can be tied to power. And society can punishes those who do not use language 'correctly'.
  3. Dialects that which are different from 'proper' English have their own grammatical rules just like 'proper' English.
  4. Literacy ability is not tied to intelligence.
  5. You don't know the story of the person who wrote something with terrible grammar or spelling, so take a breath before you correct them on your vs. you're.
  6. Chill out and don't be an asshole online.

I can think faster than I type so I skip words sometimes. I also know the difference between words like your and you're, but I still use the wrong one from time to time. As long as I make sure to proof read something for work I'm going to try not to stress about it.

But what really struck with me about the article was the statistics on literacy in America.

As a preface for this, the International Adult Literacy Survey rates literacy on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the lowest you can preform on the scale. Level 3 is considered to meet everyday literacy needs. The study found that almost 1/4th of Americans adults operate at a 4-5 level of literacy and around 1/3 operate at level 3.

That means a little less than half of Americans operate under basic literacy needs. Granted, this ranges from being completely unable to read to being able to read simple and straightforward text, but even people at level 3 sometimes avoid situations which require reading. The post in Painting the Grey Area lays out a lot of the struggles that people with low literacy face every day.

I get it that not everyone is going to want to read poetry, short stories, lyrical essays, or want to read something that I wrote in particular, those things are not really for mass consumption. But as a writer it's disheartening to know that such a significant segment of my country operates at a level which means they don't even consider picking up books because they wouldn't be able to read it or would have too much trouble to enjoy doing so. And generally, it's disheartening that these people are significantly disadvantaged, and struggle to navigate important institutions such as law, medecine, and finances.

I'm beginning to think that writers cannot just encourage people to read books and advocate for the arts, but also support efforts for adult literary.