When it comes to the number of people who struggle with literacy – Tasmania has a problem. The lower literacy a person has, the greater the disadvantage they are likely to experience in life. There is nothing new in those two facts.
What is new is the gaining momentum of people, eclectic in nature, occupation and purpose, wanting to do something about the problem.
In November 2018 I was fortunate enough to be a participant at the Symposium – Communicating: The Heart of Literacy – held at Government House. It was a great privilege to be part of a day, hosted by Her Excellency the Honourable Kate Warner.
The day was abuzz; enthusiasm was high, strangers became acquaintances, ideas flowed, stories were shared, collaborations born, and at the end of the day an agreed pledge was made – To encourage, act and support all who can to help in the quest of achieving 100% literacy in our home state of Tasmania.
It was a memorable day, however for the day to count – we have to deliver. The responsibility is upon the shoulders of all the participants to enliven ideas, carry through on promises made, remain goal-oriented and nurture lasting and effective collaborations. It is pleasing to know that innovative ideas are in the process of being bought to fruition.
When you live in a state where education is compulsory many people find it hard to believe that low literacy continues to touch the lives of so many Tasmanians. The reasons behind low literacy are both many and complex.
Many of us take our ability to read for granted, giving little or no thought to what a gift it is to do so. Reading sparks the imagination, broadens our horizons, reduces the risk of boredom, enriches our lives, and teaches us words that embolden our confidence and self-expression.
The power to improve literacy in Tasmania lies not just with those who attended the symposium, or the professionals who work tirelessly in the relevant areas, but also in the hands of all of us.
When it comes to reading – parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, guardians, friends and carers can all provide positive influences and experiences to assist the development of literacy and the joyful discovery, or rediscovery, of books.
The evidence is overwhelming: people who have sound literacy and numeracy skills have a significant advantage in so many areas of life compared to those lacking in such skills. A sense of embarrassment, shame and inadequacy may be some of the contributing factors that make some people with poor literacy skills feel powerless.
If all of us were to accept the notion that literacy skills are life-tools and that each of us were able to contribute in some way – by helping a person to learn to read, promoting the wonder of books and power of words, or simply offering encouragement to someone who may be struggling with literacy, Tasmania would be a better place.
Sarah Bolt is Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Commissioner; she was an attendee of the “Communicating: The Heart of Literacy” symposium at Government House in November 2018.