Petroglyphs like this one from the Monsell site, Nanaimo, B.C. are a precursor to writing and literacy. (BP file photo)

Petroglyphs like this one from the Monsell site, Nanaimo, B.C. are a precursor to writing and literacy. (BP file photo)

Literacy improves life, from the past to the future

Literacy includes reading, writing, numeracy and language

Literacy is the ability to read and write. But, it doesn’t just mean reading and writing words. Literacy also includes numeracy — the ability to read and work with numbers.

Reading is the process of understanding or making sense of letters, numbers, or in human lives today, emojis. This can be done by sight or touch. Reading is just one vital part of literacy. People can do it quietly alone or engage with others out loud.

Learning to read dates way back to the fourth millennium B.C. to the invention of writing. Reading print is an important way to gain information and knowledge. However, before the Industrial Revolution (1760-1840), only a small percentage of the population was considered literate.

Writing is a way of communication that involves language. Writing is physically representing symbols for one to interpret. Writing systems can change based on the needs of the people who use them.

Cave paintings or petroglyphs of prehistoric people can be considered precursors of modern writing, although they are not considered “writing” because they do not convey a language.

Reading for pleasure has been proven to increase the brain’s comprehension of vocabulary and mathematics during childhood and youth. Continued lifetime reading has been linked to high levels of academic success.

Reading books and writing throughout life have been shown to be brain-stimulating exercises that can diminish cognitive decline in seniors.

Both literacy and numeracy hold an active role in living, learning and working in the world today. Strong literacy and numeracy skills are vital to navigating the increasingly challenging and technology-driven environment most British Columbians live in.

Did you know that more than 700,000 of the province’s population had significant challenges with literacy up to 2012.

Various demographics of the population may face different difficulties with numeracy in everyday life, such as interpreting graphs, calculating medicine dosages, or figuring out interest on a car loan. More than 52 per cent of British Columbians aged 16 to 65 face challenges in these areas, according to Decoda, B.C.’s literacy organization.

Hardships in understanding newspapers, fliers, instructions, recipes, or reading health information are experienced by more than 45 per cent of Canadians in the 16 to 65 age bracket.

Significantly affected, some groups like immigrants, Indigenous, older Canadians, or those with fewer years of schooling are more likely to experience literacy frustrations, Decoda stated.

Literacy matters for many reasons, at home, at work, and in the community. At home, stronger literacy skills in British Columbians assist with better health as people can find, understand and use health information. They can understand their legal right and responsibilities. Finances are more easily managed with stronger numeracy skills.

Strong literacy skills are connected to employment and earning higher wages. It can improve accuracy and efficiency on the job and then lead to a decrease in stress. In health and safety, understanding and following instructions can be critical for personal protection or saving the life of another.

Improved literacy skills build inclusion and draw people together. According to Decoda, Canadians with stronger literacy skills are more likely to volunteer in their communities and participate in adult educational training.

K-J Millar | Journalist
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