Tag Archives: poverty

Get Off Your Soap Box: Literacy

I have a few soap box issues.  Namely child welfare and literacy.  Now, child welfare is a pretty big soap box and can include things like food, shelter and literacy, which means I very likely have stacked my soap boxes on top of each other.  Not a good thing if I ever need to climb down.

Which is exactly what I’m doing this week.  I am finally getting off my soap box and doing something about the things I believe in.


This could be my biggest soap box issue and likely stems from Eldest’s struggles with dyslexia.  It could also be from watching adults settle into a life of poverty and crime because they never reached their potential due to their own struggles with reading.  Or, it’s possible that my desire for a literate world is due to the fact that I’m a writer and firmly believe that everyone deserves the pleasure of escaping into a good book.

Regardless of why, I have a big literacy soap box.

 A Few Horrifying Facts

  • Libraries recycle their books that they unshelve or that don’t sell at book sale fundraisers.  Last year, my local library recycled three pallets of books.  Recycled, not recirculated.  As in trashed.  Never to be read again.  Wasted.
  • Books are expensive.  Yeah, I know.  Even discounted books cost more money than some people have.  In some ways, reading is a luxury.  A rich person’s hobby.  Don’t believe me?  Consider this choice: feed your kids or buy a book?  How about this one: pay rent or buy a book?  Read a book or take a shower?  Jeans or words?
  • Go to the library, you say?  Well, a lot of families living pay check to pay check work when the library is open.  And when they are not working, they are raising children–which includes grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning and homework.  Not to mention, not all towns have libraries.  And not all people have reliable transportation.  And public transit costs money.
  • Illiteracy is symptomatic and genetic.  Okay, not 100% true, but if Mom doesn’t read and there are no books in the house, what are the chances that Junior will read?  If Dad is functionally illiterate and can’t read a bedtime story to Junior, there is no positive behavior for Junior to model.  Literacy, or the lack thereof, is a vicious cycle.
  • Poverty and crime are linked to literacy levels.  Pages of statistics support this.  I would like pagest of statistics to celebrate the success of communities sharing literacy, instead.

I could go on and on, but I won’t.  Because I’m getting off my soap box.  Right now.  I’ve finally put my brains to good use and said, “Self, who has the least access to books?”

To which I answered, “People who can’t afford them.”

And where will I most likely find people who can’t afford to read?  At the food shelf.  If you can’t buy milk, you sure as heck can’t buy a book.

So, how did I get off my soap box?  I spoke with the director of our local food shelf about putting a bookshelf in their building.  I have a gorgeous oak bookcase that has nowhere to reside in my home.  It will look stunning filled with free books.

Additionally, I have boxes of books in my basement that I’ll never read again.  Hardcover and paper back alike.  Romance, mystery, thrillers, poetry, memoirs, westerns, YAs, middle grade, adult…all just sitting there in darkness.  Over the next few months, I will cull them and rebox them to take to the food shelf.  When people come in, they can add some brain food to their bags.

I’ve also talked with our librarian.  After our annual book sale, the remaining, gently-used books will also grace the shelves in the food shelf.  If–if–our food shelf can relocate to a spot big enough to house these books.  But that’s a whole ‘nother soap box and one I’ll be looking into.  If the food shelf fails to be a viable option due to financial/space issues, I have an alternative in mind.

So, dear readers, is literacy a soap box issue for you?  If so, how do you actively address this need?  Share your tips with other like-minded folks.  If you haven’t considered being actively involved until now, what ideas do you have to get off your soap box and make a difference? 

What do you think of the food shelf literacy program?  If you’re willing to contact all the right people and get one started in your area, give us a shout out in the comments.  We’d love to cheer you on!

My challenge for the week: if you are passionate about something, don’t just talk about it.  Get off your soap box and do something.


Hallucinations, Writing and Literacy

Okay, I officially understand why drug addicts like to get high.  Yesterday culminated in a whopper of a sinus infection.  I used to get them often and was thrilled to be infection free for about seven years.  Unfortunately, sinus infections are like accidently slurping down a cupful of sour milk.  Once you’ve experienced it, you will never forget.

My teeth were ready to fall out, my head throbbed and my cheekbone ached.  Enter a nice pharmacist who gave me the strongest over the counter meds to help ease the symptoms.  Wow, were they strong!

I think I hallucinated in my dreams.  They (take your pick, the dreams or the hallucinations within the dreams) were vibrant, imaginative and filled with nuances that piled up like blankets on a cold winter night.  Amazing. 

Writing is a bit like that.  We come to the paper with unique ideas and layer them with plots, subplots, characters, setting and voice.  In the rough draft stage creativity flows and it’s a little like hallucinating.  Some things make sense, while others seem to pop out of nowhere for the sole purpose of being pretty distractions.

However, hallucinations aren’t the only side effects of taking meds.  My stomach hurts, I’m exhausted and I feel shaky, as if there is a disconnect between my brain and my fingers.  Reality seems just outside my grasp.  Even within my mind, it is hard to focus on any one thing.  I start thinking about dogs and find myself considering the merits of recycling only seconds later.  My world exists in bits and pieces. 

In my writing and in my life, I welcome the return to reality–a place where my head doesn’t ache, my ears don’t ring and hallucinations don’t haunt me.  I would hate to live in a world where I felt high all the time, and I firmly believe people would be less apt to use illicit chemicals if they knew the magic that books held.  After all, drugs are often used to escape one’s reality.

In books, fanciful worlds emerge between the covers.  Colorful characters and sinister settings pull us throught the pages on adventures never before dreamed of.  Intricate plots weave together to make spell-binding stories come to life.  For just a few moments, hours or days, we can slip into an alternate reality with no side effects.

Studies have proven a direct link between literacy levels, criminal activity and poverty.  Drugs are a common component in the lives of illiterate individuals.  These problems compound, perpetuating the cycle between poor literacy and poor living environments.  True escape becomes increasingly more difficult as these life patterns become more ingrained.

Have you considered your part, as a writer, in perpetuating literacy?  Have you participated in, or made plans to participate in, literacy campaigns or programs? 

What can you do on a personal level to create future readers?  Or, is it even our responsibilty to do so?