Why donate to ANLF’s Wall of Hands?

Please donate to my Australian Numeracy and Literacy Foundation’s wall here.

I know it’s hard to donate money when you already have a stretched budget, I also know that there are many good charities out there deserving of your money. But, here’s why you should support ANLF’s Wall of Hands literacy appeal:

Literacy is so incredibly important; I cannot emphasise enough how important it is.*

To fully participate in broader society literacy is a basic requirement.** As an illiterate person, even if you could read a little, it would probably be a stretch to read formal documents. When you think about it, there are a lot of reasons you need to be able to read such documents, for example if you want to to take out a bank account, get insurance, apply to the government for anything, if you receive letters in the mail: the list is really endless. Not to mention school: doing well at school absolutely requires literacy. If you are struggling with literacy, then you will likely fall behind which makes it hard to catch up. Literacy needs to be addressed from a young age.

Apart from the boring every day requirements of being an adult, if you were illiterate you would have trouble using a computer and taking advantage of the great things on the internet. You would also miss out on the joy of reading  books. As someone who absolutely loves reading, I find this very thought horrible. Not only is reading a source of great pleasure, but it’s also strengthened my intellect, expanded my vocabulary, improved my general knowledge and developed my empathy.

Being illiterate is hard, as I’ve witnessed with some of my maternal aunties and uncles. It means relying on other people to read letters, do tax returns, and handle any official matters. Friends, family (especially my mother), and neighbours have had to help them with all of this. While you can certainly get by without literacy, it certainly makes life harder.

Sadly, it’s mostly indigenous children who are missing out. The literacy gap is just one of the many disparities between our mob and wider (and let’s face it, white) Australia. If we don’t address literacy, then it will contribute to entrenched poverty and inequality. Mind you, simply education isn’t enough – there are plenty of educated Aboriginal Australians who still face hardship and unemployment. But if you aren’t literate, then it is much worse.

It’s 2014 – we should not have children in our country and our communities who are cannot read. It is absolutely unacceptable. Help ensure that we don’t have children who grow up illiterate by donating to ANLF and other literacy organisations, such as the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

So please, give generously if you are able.

*The ANLF also seek to improve numeracy, which is important too, but I am personally concerned with literacy.

**I did have the thought that you could potentially utilise resources intended for those with vision impairments … but probably easier just to be literate.

Stories

“We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel – or have done and thought and felt; or might do and think and feel –  is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become.

And a person who had never listened to, nor read a tale or myth or parable or story, would remain ignorant of his own emotional and spiritual heights and depths, would not know quite fully what it is to be human. For the story – from Rumpelstiltskin to War and Peace – is one of the basic tools invented by the mind of man, for the purpose of gaining understanding.”
– Ursula K. Le Guin 1

Books, novels, comics, games, movies, web series, blogs and oral storytelling are all mediums that we use to tell a story. Each medium allows a unique tale to be told in a way that reaches different people and touches them differently. I love stories and I love them in all their forms, however my favourite way to engage with stories is through reading books.

My beliefs about the power and usefulness of stories has been shaped by the ideas expressed by Ursula K. Le Guin (above) and other writers. While I enjoy novels and short stories as entertainment, their greatest value is in facilitating understanding. By which I mean that they help us understand ourselves, others and the world at large by making us think and feel. We become empathetic by seeing the world through the character’s eyes and gaining an insight into how other people think. What other way is there to do this, but in stories? The best books, the ones that stay with you the longest, are the ones that make you think, reflect or see things differently. Nor do these texts need to depict an ideal – many authors, such as Joe Abercrombie, create dark and gritty realms and often depict unsavoury characters.2 In some ways, I love these kinds of novels even more because I am given access to the thoughts and motivations of people I least understand.2

Growing up I mostly read science fiction and fantasy (predominately fantasy), and this still constitutes a large part of my reading life. Precisely because it is set apart from reality, fantasy is an excellent genre to explore the human condition, the norms of our society, and our cultural beliefs and values. We are able to envision a completely (or slightly) different reality, where we are invited to contemplate, in depth, theoretical people and societies: to analyse their structure and morals, and to compare them against our own.

Stories that are well-researched can also give you general knowledge – so many times someone’s asked me how I know something and my response has been that I read it somewhere. Of course not everything you read is true, but learning to analyse what you read gives you good critical thinking skills. Indeed, storytelling is a valued teaching tool; the Bible, for example, is full of parables.

Storytelling has always been a part of human culture and I imagine it always will be, albeit in different forms. Stories are so inherent to humans, so necessary, that it makes sense that we experience our world and process our understandings through them.

1 Le Guin, Ursula K., from ‘Prophets and Mirrors: Science Fiction as a Way of Seeing,’ The Living Light 7 (1970) quoted in The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction (1979) Putnam Pub Grou
2 For example, his First Law trilogy: The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged and Last Argument of Kings.