I now blog over at The Eyre Guide! This blog is an archive of my past posts.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Refined Reader (9) Illiteracy

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,

The Refined Reader aims to take a look at the journey to where we are as readers today.  It's part history, part commentary - providing a brief, conversational summary of various aspects of our bookish past and comparing it to how it has affected us in modern times.  I love history, but I am no historian, and while I plan to do my research, if there are any errors, please let me know!  This is as much a learning venture for me as I hope it is for my blog visitors!

Just think that there was a time when regular people were not allowed to read.  Reading is a way for me to connect to the world, to understand myself and life in general.  It's essential and I think quite interesting to think about how it became so.

Forms of a written language is thought to have emerged around 8000 b.c. in Mesopotamia.  It was simple of course and ideographic but it helped people maintain their systems of trade and agriculture.  As civilization developed, the importance of being able to understand a written system of communication was widely recognized and before the fall of the Western Roman Empire (476 A.D.) it was pretty common for the average person to know some form of reading and writing.  But.  After the fall, the ability to read and write was a kind of power that the higher classes wielded over the lower.  At the time less importance was placed on education, and books and reading material were hard to find or very expensive.  A lack of literacy and education meant that social classes were preserved and it was easier to take advantage of the lower classes.

With the invention of the printing press in the 15th century and the decision to translate the Bible into vernacular, literacy became a part of the daily lives of the average person.  However there are still many less developed countries in the world where literacy is not the norm.  Economic status plays a part as does political beliefs but it is proven that a higher literacy rate improves individual lives as well as the economy of a country.  For individuals it boosts self-esteem and self-empowerment while on an economic and political level it promotes awareness of issues, participation in politics and productivity in the workforce.

No question this time, just take a moment to appreciate what being able to read has meant to you!

The Impact of Literacy

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  1. Ughh, I can't even BEGIN to imagine being denied reading, and books. How did people amuse themselves?? Nightmare.

    I don't know if you read about Linear A and B during your research? They're really early forms of Mycaenean Greek that are STILL undeciphered. Well, Linear B is a bit clearer, bits of it are deciphered but so far all the texts have been stuff like shipping inventories and trade documents. So not massively interesting but still useful... but think how many secrets are hidden beneath Linear A :o

  2. I am always sadden when I find out that someone can't read. I think my library has an adult literacy program which is such a nice thing to do.

  3. Yep, it's all about the power of reading

  4. Wow. I can't even imagine...

  5. I have not heard of Linear A and B! That's so fascinating - it's amazing to think that there are languages that we haven't decoded yet! I hope there are some more intriguing things in the Linear A fragments - it would be so cool to get a new ancient story! :)

  6. I think it would be so hard to pick up reading as an adult, so kudos to adults who need to get through it now. It is pretty disheartening to think that there are places where reading is not taught. It's so basic and so important and it gives so much joy.

  7. *cue Reading Rainbow music*! LOL that's just what immediately came into my head when I read your comment! :)

  8. It is really hard to imagine with all the technological advancement in our world. Such a shame!

  9. This is great, I'm also a big fan of history and what's better then the history of reading for a bookworm? :) Literacy has been one of the most important skills through out human history and it is the driving force in development all over the world. I cannot wait until this right is extended to all people. It's saddens me to see children who want to study but can't due to financial problems.

    Rinn's comment reminded me of Phoenicia (modern day Lebanon/Syria) and the first phonetic alphabet. It is said to be the ancestor of all modern alphabet and dates back 1050 BCE.


  10. Thank you for your awesome comment! You have captured everything I wanted to say in this post and so eloquently and succinctly! :) I did not know about Phoencian alphabet! I just wikipedia'd it! It's mind-boggling how old it is - and interesting to think who first came up with an alphabet!