Could you cope without reading or writing?

I do not know how I would survive if I could not read or write. For me this is not only an absolute necessity for daily life and work but it is a recreation and a joy. 

I discovered reading early, crawling behind the sofa and pulling out the books in the bookcase. As far as I can remember reading came naturally to me, but then it was encouraged and taught by my parents and teachers. I enjoyed writing from a young age and even started writing my first (and only) novel when I was 8. Yes, I definitely count literacy as a great blessing.

The Christian Aid 'Count Your Blessings' calendar today tells me that two-thirds of the the world's 799 million illiterate adults are women. As an example, in Afghanistan only 43% of the men are literate, but a mere 13% of women. That is shocking and contributes to women's powerlessness.

Christian Aid works with partners like STARS to provide literacy courses for women as well as other provision to improve women's education and health in Afghanistan.

Christian Aid today suggests giving 5p for all the women in your family who have attended secondary school. There are no women in my family who have not attended secondary school and most have completed tertiary education in college or university as well. That's a privilege that millions of illiterate women of today's world can only dream about. Now I just have to decide how big to draw the family circle to count the women. I think I'll stick to those still living.


  1. Like you Nancy, I learned to read very early and regard reading as one of life's greatest blessings.(albeit one which most of us take for granted).
    When I first retired some 18 years ago, I was at a loss for something useful to fill my spare time.
    In the end I settled on working with a local adult literacy scheme, to help people of all ages who had never mastered this basic skill.
    It was a huge eye-opener to me, and a source of immense pleasure to see the slow dawning of the 'key' to literacy being grasped more and more firmly week-by-week.
    The sense of achievement when someone who was initially unable even to write their own name picking up a newspaper and - admittedly very slowly - reading out a headline, then being inspired to follow up the rest of the story was hugely rewarding for both of us.
    I did it for only 2 and a half years but still think of that time as one of the most useful of my life.

  2. Ray, I think in some respects it's harder to cope with being illiterate in countries like the UK where the majority of adults take this basic skill for granted. It's often a source of shame and people go to extraordinary lengths to prevent others discovering their problem. That sounds like a really useful task you did the adult literacy scheme. Sadly, I think some of these schemes have been cut.

  3. The answer is yes I can, but I didn't like it one little bit. The worse consequence of my illness last year was finally having loads of time on my hands but not being able to read. Which was why my hunt for charities that dealt with literacy led me don a slightly different route; 'Books for Africa' help get books into schools and libraries so that once people can read they have books to read. Of course it also helps with reading in the first place but if a school has only one book it hardly encourages the kind of avid reading I enjoyed so much as a child and which I am sure is the reason behind my love of reading to this day.

    1. Just revisited this post Kirsten and realized I never acknowledged your comment. My apologies. You made a good point about the importance of access to books. Hope you are enjoying your reading this Lent.


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