Friday, December 2, 2011

The High Cost of Low Literacy at Home

The Velcro Effect Makes it Easier to Learn
I was at a literacy seminar once where the speaker pulled out a strip of purple Velcro. Several times, in the quiet of the lecture hall, she ripped the two purple strips apart and put them back together again. Rip, stick, rip, stick, rip, stick, until she finally told us that literacy in one area of life improves the "stickiness" of new "literacies" in other areas of life. The more you know, the more you will learn.

Beyond the literacy of reading and writing, we've had several different categories of literacy defined in recent years. These are new terms defined largely by social advocacy groups and sometimes picked up by the public sector. A few examples include computer literacy, media literacy, environmental literacy, emotional literacy, nutrition literacy and, of course, financial literacy. All of which are primarily promoted by non-profit advocacy groups that are on a mission to ensure that all Canadians have a chance to learn the language of money or feelings or whatever literacy a group is promoting.

It's no secret that I am on the financial literacy bandwagon and I promote teaching children and adults the language of money whenever I can. But when I think back to the Velcro effect, I can't help but turn the gaze upon myself as a parent. Literacy-focused non-profits raise all kinds of private money from corporations and individuals. They also receive government grants for their causes. Promoting literacy is expensive you need offices, trained staff, teaching and promotional materials.

While I'm sure these efforts are beneficial on some level, I can't help but wonder if that money needs to be spent at all. Can't basic literacies be taught at home? Are we parents just too busy to bother or is our own literacy too low to do the job?

I might not be an expert in computer literacy, media literacy, environmental literacy, emotional literacy, nutrition literacy, and financial literacy, but I do talk to my daughter about the basics of surfing the Net, the power of advertisements on YTV, the benefits of recycling paper, how to save her tears for times when she is really hurt, the difference between a healthy meal and junk food, and how to read a stock chart. I can do all of this for free and when I get to the end of my expertise in a particular language, I am literate enough in a general sense to know that we should consult a professional or get outside help.

The speaker was right. The more I know, the more I can learn. Rip, stick, rip, stick, rip...and it's free.

Copyright 2011. Laura Thomas. All Rights Reserved.
For reprint permission contact moneyme at telus dot net.

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