The Real Stats Behind Illiteracy

When it comes to illiteracy, 757 million people around the world are illiterate.
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When it comes to illiteracy, 757 million people around the world are illiterate.

Credit: Grammarly

Many of my blog readers love to write—and even more love to read.

That makes sense. Even if we aren’t passionate about writing, we all enjoy taking in a good story. Storytelling has been part of the human experience for countless centuries. And many stories we take in are told in the form of words.

But not everyone can enjoy a story that way. In fact, 757 million people around the world cannot read.

That’s a lot of people who can’t read a good story.

In honor of International Literacy Day, Grammarly created this infographic to highlight the statistics of global illiteracy:

Literacy Day Grammarly Infographic

Do you think illiteracy is an issue? Share your insights below.

Why Reread Books?

Why reread books? Because you're missing out.
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Why reread books? Because you're missing out.

Confession: I avoid rereading books when possible.

But that’s not possible when you’re in grad school.

Books you read in high school will appear on your class syllabus as required reading. And having read it five years ago doesn’t count.

I once considered rereading books a waste of time. I have reading lists of books I want to read once, and you can’t highlight a book twice.

Yep, I’m that person.

But there’s value to rereading books. Although my grad school days are long behind me, I still pick up a book I’ve already read from time to time.

And you should too.

So why reread books? Because you’re missing out if you don’t.

You Missed A Lot The First Go-Around

Story details go unnoticed the first time you read a book. Since you already know the “what happens next” parts, reread the book to focus on the little things that heighten each plot point, character, and setting. Can you spot the foreshadowing? Can you find hints of a character’s point of view who isn’t telling the story?

You Have A Different Perspective

When I first read Catcher In The Rye as a teenager, I immediately identified with Holden’s point of view and claimed him to be misunderstood.

After rereading the novel as a grad school grown-up, I found him to be very whiny and depressing.

It’s hard to read a book objectively. And when we don’t read objectively, our personalities and life events change how we perceive a story. Were you in a bad place when you read the book before? Read it before a life-changing event? Reread the book through your new filter to see what you notice now about the story.

You Should Analyze Story Structure

Reading is always a constructive task for writers. After you let yourself enjoy the story the first read-through, it’s time to get to work.

What’s working in the story? What’s not? How did the writer succeed in conveying X, Y, and Z? These are questions you should be asking (and perhaps journaling about) when you reread so that you know how to improve your own writing.

Why do you reread books? Share your thoughts below.

Writer, Meet Your Audience

As a writer, do you know exactly who your audience is? And why they matter?
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As a writer, do you know exactly who your audience is? And why they matter?

Credit: chrissonksen.wordpress.com

When I was an undergrad student, I had a stubborn view on audience. I argued that the writer wrote solely for him/herself, that the reader either enjoys the writer’s art or does not.

How wrong I was.

I tried arguing this stance in formal papers to professors. Yet their red pens circled and criticized, pointing out that my argument “only further proved that the writer must know their audience.”

And my audience was against me.

My stubborn view changed after my Writing and Genre capstone class. The professor assigned a romance novel for us to read. That’s right, a romance novel.

Although I love a good soap opera, the romance novel audience did not include me.

But there was a point. After reading the romance novel, the professor asked us to consider these questions:

  • Who would choose to read this novel?
  • Why would they choose to read this novel?
  • In what ways is the writer fulfilling the needs of the reader?

It was the first time I ever considered the reader having a point of view. I was so wrapped up in being the writer that I forgot what it was like to be the reader.

Sometimes the biggest lessons are saved for last.

This lesson continued when I started my marketing career in higher education. I loved the college I was hired to promote, but I couldn’t write my ads from my point of view. Boasting stats and rankings wouldn’t have resonated with our potential student audience.

In order to be effective, I had to consider the audience’s point of view and write from there.

So how does the writer take on the reader’s point of view?

Think about a particular writing project of yours and ask yourself these questions:

  • What is happening in your reader’s life that would make your writing resonate?
  • How would your reader define an enjoyable reading experience?
  • How does your reader decide what is interesting to read?
  • What are barriers in your reader’s life that keeps him/her from reading your writing?
  • Who and what influences your reader’s decision to read your writing?
  • What would your reader admire about your writing?
  • What would your reader dislike about your writing?

Knowing who your reader is, are you fulfilling the needs of your reader? How can you enrich their experience more? How can you make sure they choose to read your writing?

Reflect on these questions periodically as you write and revise your work. Things change over time: Your writing, your audience, even your perspective on life, your work, and your audience.

Even I changed my perspective.

Library to Café: A Writer’s Workspace Migration

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The librarian called my house when I was five to tattletale on me. Earlier that day, I was exploring the children’s section at the local library, listening to an audiocassette about counting in Spanish in the audiocassette-designated area.

“Uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco, seis.”

I really got into it, bobbing my head and singing along out loud. I think I even started dancing around the table, the headphone cord corkscrewing around my body.

“Siete, ocho, nueve, diez!”

So the librarian called right before dinner. Apparently I was too loud, but I was let off with a warning for my noise violation and a pre-dinner parental scolding.

I’ve been a silent patron ever since.

This story always comes to mind whenever I step inside a library. I think of it as children dash around bookshelves for their game of tag. I think of it as an obnoxious ringtone blares from someone’s pocket or purse, when it takes the full duration of the piercing jingle for the owner to silence the cell phone. I think of it as a mother bounces her screaming baby between the librarian help desk and the sign Silence Zone.

Whatever happened to the library being a quiet place?

Although I broke the rule once, I’ve appreciated silence at the library my whole life. I valued the silence so that I could hear myself read silently, imagine the stories inside shelved books, and brainstorm my own story ideas with a paper and pen.

Even if that meant speaking in a whisper.

But the strictness of silence at the library is diminishing. There may be signs suggesting silence and to turn off cell phones, but there is also holiday music playing, storytime in common areas, and patron voices laughing, crying, scolding, and shouting.

And librarians that don’t call your house.

After days of arriving at the library to write yet coming home defeated by the noise, I decided I needed a new out-of-the-house workspace.

So I went to a café.

It’s no secret why cafés are so popular for writers. The building smells like coffee beans, chocolate, and cinnamon. Phone volumes are turned to silent or vibrate, and calls are answered outside.  Jazz music plays just loud enough to get your writing juices flowing.  Voices aren’t a distraction, not even whispered conversations or those ordering a latté. There are lots of windows bringing in natural light. You don’t even get sideways glances when you hog a large table to spread out all your paper drafts and computer technology.

Plus you can buy a cup of caffeine.

Going to a café is my entertainment fix each week (probably because I don’t get out that much). I am willing to spend $5 to sip a mocha, stretch out at a table, write until my fingers are sore, and show off just how serious of a writer I am to those passing by outside.

So what does the café have that the library doesn’t?

(It’s not the coffee. More and more libraries are selling hot beverages, and most libraries tolerate patrons bringing in tightly sealed drinks.)

It’s the intimacy.

Café customers come in to get cozy with their book, their newspaper, their writing, their homework, their coffee, their friend. What is said, read, or written is often private, and time spent at the café is precious bonding time.

That’s why libraries were once so appealing to me. It seemed like every patron had a relationship with books and reading equal to my own. People came in to browse, to read, to research—anything to strengthen the bond between book and human.

Perhaps now the patron relationship has altered. Patrons come to the library to make book loan transactions, take a class, tutor a student, hear carolers sing.

The library is not a café. It is a community house.

The library’s patron has shifted from the individual to the family. An individual may read all day long, but a family has multiple wants–and reading is only one of them. The library, wanting to stay funded, meets these multiple wants of their new client.

This isn’t the first time a business has evolved. Bookstores now carry music and computer games. Video rental stores shifted to online movie streaming. Restaurants revise their menu to compete with that popular restaurant down the street.

It’s all about meeting client needs.

Since my current need is quiet time to write my novel-in-progress, I choose to spend my resources at a café where I know I’ll write a solid five pages in one sitting. I return to the library from time to time at non-peak hours because I’m always curious to see what’s happening there.

Where librarians won’t tattletale on me anymore.