Literacy is a fundamental need for any society to function properly. Reading and writing are perhaps the biggest source of communication between humans.
Other forms of communication like presentations, videos and voice messages have only existed because of the technological advancements that we have reached today. However, reading and writing have been around for thousands of years.
With that said, making sure that every single individual in a society is literate is an important step towards creating a better society.
Literacy can affect a society on many levels. It can help build the economy, lower death rates, automate governmental processes, fight fake news and maintain order in the society as a whole.
Before I dive more into each of the mentioned benefits of literacy.
What exactly is literacy?
As you may already know, the general definition of literacy is the ability to read and write. A person is literate if they can read and write.
However, some modern definitions of literacy also take into consideration the ability to communicate properly with other people and understand the context behind the words you read.
So, literacy is the ability to read and understand the context of any regular text very clearly. It is also the ability to write down your thoughts in an easy and understandable way.
The Unesco also considers being able to do simple arithmetic operations an essential part of being a literate person.
How does literacy affect a society as a whole?
1- Literacy can help the economy.
If a person is illiterate, they will have a very low chance at getting a decent job. They might even not get a job at all.
Almost all jobs today require that you know how to read and write. You will need to fill forms, you will need to sign a job contract, and you will need reading and writing for many other things when it comes to work.
With that said, the higher illiteracy rates a society has, the higher the unemployment rates will be.
Thus literacy plays a huge factor when it comes to keeping the economy safe.
2- Literacy can lower death rates in a society
You won’t believe how many people take the wrong medication because they can’t read.
If your doctor told you to take a medicine to fix your problem, how are you supposed to know what medicine is your doctor talking about if you can’t read?
Many people face health issues just because they took the wrong medicine.
Not being able to read signs in the public can also be a big problem. If you’re driving and you can’t read signs, you might cause a lot of trouble for you and other drivers.
Illiteracy can cause a lot of deaths. People can die if they take the wrong medicine, people may die if they can’t read a street sign while driving, and so on.
3- Literacy allows the automation of governmental processes.
This might sound weird at the beginning but hear me out.
The rise of the internet has allowed governments to create websites to automate many of their processes and paperwork.
Whenever a citizen in a society needs to do some paperwork, the internet can help them do it online instead of having to go to a governmental office and waste a lot of their time.
This automation process is extremely important on many levels.
It can help reduce traffic because less people will be driving their cars just to do some paperwork somewhere, it will save a lot of time for people, and it will reduce operational costs on the government because a software will handle requests instead of real people.
However, such an automation is only useful if most of the society members can read and write. If people can’t read or write, they most probably don’t know how to visit a website and fill a form.
4- Literacy can help in fighting fake news
This is a tough one. However, with the right amount of literacy, fake news can be fought.
One of the most important sources of advertisement is the word of mouth. However, the word of mouth can spread fake news the same way it can spread anything else.
If people can’t check whether something they heard is true or not because they can’t read or write, then they might just choose to believe it because it’s easier for them to believe it than to check whether it’s true or not.
Fake news is everywhere, the internet is also full of them. So even though people could read and write, they might still fall into the trap if they look in the wrong place over the internet for any information.
Thus fighting fake news doesn’t only require literacy, but it also requires some critical thinking and the ability to sense that something isn’t right about the information you’re receiving.
However, being a literate society is a foundation to reduce the spread of fake news between people. If people can read and write, they’ll have more knowledge that can help them distinguish between what makes sense and what doesn’t
Literacy can help a society be economically stronger, have a lower death rate, automate paperwork processes, fight fake news and so much more.