| January 5, 2020 | 0 Comments

Read This and See!

The San Diego Council on Literacy (SDCOL) recently held its “Literacy Champions Reception” and “Hall of Fame” induction.  Yes, I was there.  And, I was “inducted!” In thanks, I performed the event’s shortest speech:  “Reading is Educational!  Reading is Tranquilizing!  Reading is Power!”   Yes, a belief heartily shared by my co-awardees, and a near-religion for Jose Cruz, the council’s CEO.  We talked:

LW:   Jose, these days, folks often find it easier to just push a button to learn news of the day, history, even get help or advice for any situation.  Do we still need organizations like SDCOL?

JC:  Technology has helped our society close gaps in communications and increase access to information and other resources.  Regardless, statistically speaking, the person who cannot read or read well, will not do as well in life as those who do both, well. The person who cannot read or read well, will be less likely to enjoy a book with their children, help those children with homework, engage with their community, get a high school diploma, attend college, or secure the career of their choice. The least literate of our society will earn a lesser salary than their more literate peers. They will be less likely to vote and will be more likely to struggle in the roles that adults play in our society.

LW:  Your warm, lovely reception last month certainly reinforced society’s need for reading, for literacy, but I couldn’t help noticing the “seniority” – read that “ages” of attendees was short, to say the least, on younger guests in the audience.  

JC:  All of us should be concerned about the role that the next generation of residents and philanthropists will play in our society. Previous generations of donors gave us good reason to be confident about the practice of contributing to important causes. In the current era, we have questions. This doesn’t mean that the young people, the next generation, won’t give to causes. It’s just that, right now, there’s an enormous transfer of wealth taking place. We’re hopeful that the new guardians of that wealth will do what their parents and others did to contribute to an enhanced quality of life…with generosity fueled by compassion. We have reason to be optimistic.

LW: SDCOL is certainly at the helm of numerous community organizations that share your mission.  How are they doing – and what changes in them have you seen, given the above discussion?

JC: Our 28 affiliated programs have been consistent in adapting to changing times. Many of these programs went through the same transitions that we went through when the world went “Internet,” and everyone, not just the elite few, owned a computer, now, a phone that gets carried around in the pocket! Who doesn’t have a phone now? This is just one area of change. In 2008/2009, we all suffered from a serious economic situation. Yet, all of our literacy programs survived…despite five years or so of limited funding. We’re doing well, in part, because we’re doing good! Literacy is “people” work, powered by people. It’s kind of hard to discourage us, slow us down, or shut us down.

LW: Those of us who are ardent readers just can’t imagine “life” without books, magazines, etc.  Do we have a future? 

JC: I am encouraged by the fact that babies love books more than they like smart phones. Whether we like to read or not, we still have to do it. Libraries in our region continue to get built and continue to expand their collections. We’re seeing a growth in bookstores that feature used books. There are still plenty of us who love to read. For the commuter, there are books-on-tape, etc.

As long as humanity is interested in its world, people will want to know more. They’ll access videos, but they’ll also seek and access information that helps them learn more about the things they love or the things that help them function in life. With automation, we miss important details. We get the short version. Through the printed word, we have, and will continue to preserve, much needed and much-wanted information. I think literacy is safe. We’re already in the future.   I’m typing this…and you’re reading this. That’s two of us who are engaged with print, and there’s millions more, and growing, all over the planet.

 The 2019 Inductees to the SDCOL’s Literacy Hall of Fame include Bob Alden, Paula Cordeiro, Gloria DeMent, Nancy Hampson, Stan Levy, Chris McFadden, Helga Moore, David O’Brien, Nancy Rohland-Heinrich, Drew Schosberg and Laura Walcher. 

Left to right are San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox, SDCOL Board Chair Nora Kenny-Whitley, Laura Walcher, and SDCOL CEO Jose Cruz. Photo is courtesy of J. Walcher Communications.

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