On International Literacy Day (8th September), our English lecturer, Peter Morrisson, explains the importance of literacy for people of all ages and what we can do to improve.

Why is literacy so important?

The World Literacy Foundation reported that in 2018 in the UK, illiteracy cost the economy around £80 billion due to expenditures associated with welfare, unemployment, and social programs, as well as reduced government tax revenue and productivity.

In a recently published article entitled ‘Literacy: An evidence-informed guide for teachers author, James Murphy, states ‘Written information has become the foundation on which the information revolution is built. Without access to this foundation, full participation in our society is impossible. Indeed, poor literacy is so strongly correlated with poor life outcomes, that it should be impossible to ignore.’

How can low literacy levels affect every-day life?

People with low levels of literacy tend to have lower incomes. With fewer resources, there is a higher probability of housing and food instability. Students without this stability concern themselves less with the grades they are getting, and so the cycle of low literacy levels is perpetuated.

Furthermore, people with a low level of literacy have limited ability to make important informed decisions in everyday life, as they struggle with tasks such as filling out complex forms and applications, understanding government policies, and even reading medicine or nutritional labels.

So, it’s clear that if we support young people with literacy as well as encouraging those no longer in education who have lower literacy levels to improve, then not only will they benefit, but our Island’s economy will also benefit.

How can people who have low literacy improve?

Like any skill, the way to improving is practice. Set aside a small amount of time every day to practise reading. Some people find it helpful to read out loud which can feel a bit awkward at first but after a while it starts to feel more natural.

Find things that you like to read. Some people get hooked by a murder mystery, some are fascinated by factual books like biographies, whereas others want something more light hearted.

Set yourself some achievable goals. Short stories or something that has a younger reading age is a great place to start. This will help you boost your confidence.

There are also lots of great resources available locally to help improve literacy. If you can, get your family involved so you can all learn together, for example, the Family Library is great for families and The Henry Bloom Library has a children’s reader’s group for children aged 7 – 11 years old. The group aims to develop their reading and communication skills and nurture a love of reading.

Adult Literacy and Numeracy (or ALN) classes welcome people of all post-school ages throughout the academic year, providing essential skills in reading, writing and spelling. These classes are tailored to suit the individual and are often one-on-one which is great for people who might be concerned or anxious about being in a learning environment.

Students who want to gain qualifications, perhaps to be able to progress on to further or higher education or to add to their CV, take their English iGCSE which is currently offered without any cost at UCM.

People who don’t speak English as their first language can benefit with an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) course, which we also offer without any cost.

You might also be interested to read that UCM we offer Maths GCSE free of cost.