The value of literacy

by Maria G. Gontang
Teacher II
Bagumbayan Elementary School,
Bula, Camarines Sur

In the so-called Information Age, the importance of literacy cannot be undermined. It has become one of the most important skills a person may have to not only live a fulfilling life, but also to survive everyday challenges.

Literacy has come to mean not only the ability to read and write, but also a plethora of other interrelated things. These include the ability to understand and even create images (visual literacy); the ability to adapt to the changing communication formats such as instant messaging and e-mail (media literacy); the ability to use digital devices to achieve a number of goals (digital literacy); the ability to make good choices about money (financial literacy); and the ability to distinguish true from false information (news literacy).

At the most basic, however, literacy still depends on reading and writing skills learned in foundational education years, when basic linguistic abilities are taught and reinforced.

It must be underscored that this responsibility to empower young minds to comprehend and process information belongs not only to the reading teacher, but also to the teachers of other subjects, the parents of the learners who must encourage reading and writing in the home; and even community leaders who must make the development and promotion of literacy possible.

This is because literacy is not merely a basic weapon and tool, but also has the potential to combat poverty, promote social development, and even improve health.

As to combatting poverty, literacy creates opportunities for the individual to rise above his or her economic situation, and in turn, help others do so. Through employment or entrepreneurship, the literate individual is further able to make a contribution to society as well as live a satisfied and happy life.

As to promoting social development, literacy enables one to participate in political and other civic exercises. It further has the ability to benefit underprivileged groups by leveling the playing field in many instances. Lastly, it allows individuals to cope with difficult situations such as disasters and conflicts.

As to improving health, literacy is now being used as a measure to study how likely a person will engage in health-seeking behaviors. In other words, if a person is literate, he or she is said to be more likely to seek health than one who is not, for the simple fact that he or she is able to comprehend the importance of health to one’s life.

By way of concluding, literacy has always had value in society. However, today, literacy in its many forms it has become a vital tool to take on daily tasks so much that going without it has become no longer an option. Let us therefore work towards literacy—both the basic and functional kinds—so we could not only survive, but also thrive in this ever-challenging and ever-changing world.