Sunday, March 19, 2006

Functional illiteracy

Who uses it: Teachers, social workers, sociologists
What it means: Having basic reading, writing and math skills, but not being able to use those skills in everyday life.
How you can use it: Don't assume everyone can read what you're writing, and act accordingly.

The student I work with through Literacy Volunteers grew up speaking a language and using an alphabet other than English. Her English reading and writing skills are actually quite good, but business English is full of mysteries that need decoding, even for native speakers.

We spent one morning going through a newspaper's classified ads, which was a revelation to me. Classified ads aren't even written in English: F/T, P/T, EOE, exp. req.? People with low reading skills skip over the words they don't understand, and look for words they recognize -- which makes them particularly susceptible to scams and exploitation. Sometimes they pretend to be able to understand more than they do; sometimes they admit that they have to trust another person's explanation of the paper in front of them. Either way, they're vulnerable.

Literacy Volunteers of Augusta is holding its big annual fundraiser, a dessert party at the Senator Inn, this afternoon at 1:00 p.m. Tickets are $10.00; if you're in the neighborhood, drop by. If you're not, think about volunteering or making a donation to your local LVA chapter or adult education program.

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