The Joy of Literacy

I was fortunate enough to participate in an event this past weekend called Buns and Roses. This was my third year to participate as an author, but I’ve attended the event long before that as a reader. Buns and Roses is the annual fundraiser for the Richardson Adult Literacy Center, a resource in the Dallas area. I was also fortunate to share the event with several of my Ruby Sisters – Diane Kelly, Darynda Jones, Liz Talley, Elizabeth Essex.

Each year, the folks from RALC share the alarming statistics of literacy in the United States. While the organization’s focus is on helping those in the Richardson community, the services RALC offers are found in communities across the country. And in each and every case, you find the same realities that these warriors for the word are fighting against:

** It’s estimated 93 million adults in the U.S. have Basic or Below Basic literacy skills.

** Adults living in poverty are more likely to be functioning with Basic or Below Basic literacy skills.

** More than 1 million incarcerated adults have below average literacy skills.

** Foreign-born adults who come to the United States are more likely to have below average literacy skills.

Sarah MacLean gave an incredibly touching and stirring keynote on literacy and it got me thinking (it also got me rather teary-eyed, along with everyone else in the room!) What would my life be like if I didn’t have experience with the written word?

The stories I’d have missed out on. The professional opportunities that would have been closed to me. The basic sense of direction I have when I drive around my community or any other. The joy of reading to my niece. The memory of reading my early easy-reader to my grandfather. Exchanging love letters with an old boyfriend. Reading my birthday cards. Writing and sending Christmas cards.

These and so many other memories – where the written word was essential to the experience – would have simply been lost to me.

The good news is that we can do something about this. There are organizations like RALC and so many others across the country. ProLiteracy is an organization the Romance Writers of America have supported for years with the annual “Readers For Life” booksigning at the RWA National conference. Their site is a wealth of information from how to donate to how to share your time to educate others.

Increasing literacy in our communities helps us all. And best of all, it will give illiterate individuals the opportunity to read their next birthday card. Or fill out their next job application. Or share the joy of reading that great book that’s sitting atop the bestseller list and had you up on the edge of your seat all night.

If you’re reading this, please consider how you could contribute to this important work. And if now’s not the right time for you, please spread the word to your loved ones about the importance of this cause.



29 responses to “The Joy of Literacy”

  1. Laurie Kellogg says:

    Great post, Addison. It’s a cause any writer can get behind.


  2. Jenn! says:

    My local RWA chapter actively supports a local adult literacy program. It’s such a wonderful cause. One I’m proud to contribute to.

    Great post, Addison.



    • Addison Fox says:

      That’s wonderful to hear, Jenn!

      It’s such a fundamental need in today’s society – it’s mind-boggling when you hear the statistics on how many individuals simply can’t take part in so much of what we take for granted.


  3. Great post. I champion literacy through my local library. They have a wonderful woman who is a natural storyteller and she inspires others to dive into the world of books. Of course many help those who have trouble reading.

    You are so right in stating this cause will help us all in the longterm.

    BTW: You all look great!


  4. Rita Henuber says:

    Thanks Addison for reminder about the importance of this cause.


    • Addison Fox says:

      Thanks, Rita – Sarah’s speech and the entire weekend was really inspiring. When you think about the challenges so many people are living with, it’s just such an eye opener how many of them are tied to illiteracy.


  5. June Love says:

    Addison, I love your post. This cause is one that needs a lot of attention. I don’t think many of us realize just how alarming the statistics are.

    I remember years ago my best friend’s son came home from his first day in the first grade beaming with pride. He told his mother that his teacher had praised an answer he’d given. The teacher had asked the class what they thought was the most important subject in school. Eric was the only one who said reading. His reason: If you can’t read, then how can you do anything else?

    BTW, you and the sisters look fabulous!


  6. What a powerful message, Addison. I’ve driven by our adult literacy program here in town several times and keep thinking I need to volunteer. I used to tutor and loved it, and would like to get back into something like that. (Unfortunately, with a toddler, I never know how much time I can commit.) It’s definitely something I want to do soon, though.

    Thanks for this beautiful post, and the reminder of all the worlds and experiences that are open to us simply because we can read. I think everyone deserves that chance.


    • Addison Fox says:

      Thanks, Anne Marie! It really is amazing when you realize how many doors are just completely closed because of not being able to read.


  7. Amanda Brice says:

    Great post, Addison. My local chapter contributes to the local adult literacy program here in DC. Like Anne Marie, I’d love to volunteer, but with a toddler and a baby it’s hard to know how much time I could commit.

    Thanks for this wonderful post and reminder of how important reading is. I’m reminded of it every day as I watch my almost-3-year-old’s face light up as she “reads” to me.


  8. Gwyn says:

    Great photo! Looks like a few sisters will be on a mission to buy photo frames very soon.

    Literacy is so very important. It provides the leg-up so many need to get ahead. Kudos to all who’ve recognized its importance and are making the effort to eradicate ignorance. I’m always reminded of Dickens’s Spirit of Chistmas Present lifting his robe, introducing the urchins hidden beneath, and warning that the boy, ignorance, is the most dangerous.


    • Addison Fox says:

      Gwyn – that Dickens image is so, so powerful. The things we don’t know are often the things that cause the greatest challenges in our lives.


  9. Thanks for this lovely post, Addison.

    I was a real privilege to attend the event as an author this year, and like you, the day always makes me appreciate the three things I had in my young life that turned me into a reader: parents who read, and who read to me; a fantastic public library with a marvelous, imaginative children’s librarian; and an engaging, enthusiastic English teacher who nurtured my love of reading and writing.

    Unfortunately your statistics show that not everyone is as fortunate, but places like the Richardson Adult Literacy Center and Proliteracy are closing the gap every day. I am so proud to help support their efforts.


  10. Vivi Andrews says:

    Such a great cause, Addison. Thanks for the reminder to get involved in something that can open up whole new worlds for people. 🙂


  11. Thank you so much for the reminder, Addison. Truly an important cause. With literacy (and education) comes the hope of a brighter future.


  12. Liz Talley says:

    Wonderful post, Addison, and I must say as much as I enjoyed attending the event, it was more important to celebrate the reason behind all the tea and cumcumber sandwiches – and that is raising money for a much needed charity. As a former Adult Education teacher, I know how important it is to acheive basic reading skills. A person can’t advance in his or her education if he or she can’t read well, and unfortunately, I saw too many adults wanting to obtain a GED, but hiding the fact they couldn’t actually read well. So literacy is still an issue, and in today’s world where many children fall through the cracks, a growing concern for native speakers.

    I’m so happy to have participated in an event that raises money and awareness for literacy, and I’m happy to say my own home chapter participates in raising money for local literacy groups.

    Again, wonderful post, Addison!


    • Addison Fox says:

      It was so wonderful to see you this weekend and thanks for sharing the perspective you gained first hand working with adults. Improving literacy really does make such a huge difference in people’s lives – for themselves as well as for their families.


  13. Elizabeth Langston says:

    I work with the Accessibility dept at a software company. We try to help blind users “read”–and it’s amazing how much content is text. Without the ability to read, people are cut off from computers, information on grocery items, maps, road signs, recipes, instruction manuals, prescription warnings… We read so much that it’s hard to imagine being without it. Thanks for a post that highlights how important literacy is.


    • Addison Fox says:

      You are so right! When you start drilling down into how unconsciously we use our ability to read – and how it is a skill that we literally put into practice EVERYWHERE – it begins to dimensionalize just how debilitating the inability to read is in a person’s life.


  14. What a great post, Addison!!! I was so proud to be a part of Buns & Roses this year and to see some of my Ruby Sisters!


  15. Elisa Beatty says:

    What a fabulous cause, Addison!!! Thank you for this reminder to work for literacy (which I do in my classroom every day). Reading is one of life’s great gifts.


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