The word “literacy” means different things in different contexts. For many people, the first things that come to mind are books and reading, especially in childhood. But literacy can also mean financial or political literacy – having the necessary knowledge and skills to navigate money or your place in society.
For the New Statesman’s 2016 Literacy Week, we’re exploring the question of literacy from a variety of angles. We’ll be looking at what it means to grow up with books, and conversely what it means when you can’t read. We’ll feature pieces from authors and young writers discussing the reading material which matters to them. And we’ll be asking what can be done on a policy level to improve literacy, in schools and elsewhere.
I hope you enjoy the pieces below.
The trials and triumphs of learning to read in a second language, by Anoosh Chakelian and Yo Zushi
Two New Statesman staffers recount how they learned to read Armenian and English, respectively.
Why we need to improve education in prisons, for the benefit of everyone
Frances Crook, Chief Executive of The Howard League, on literacy for offenders.
How a sugar company taught be to read
Stephen Bush on dyslexia and the outreach programme that made him the person he is today.
Class and literacy, from Enid Blyton to Hoggart
Stephanie Boland on growing up in libraries.
The topics that taught me to read in spite of myself
Henry Zeffman and India Bourke on the things they loved to read about.
When it comes to literacy, millennials are a lost generation
Barbara Speed on our spending habits – and why young women, in particular, are losing out.
What literacy can do for children in institutions
Georgette Mulheir, CEO of J K Rowling’s charity Lumos, on the children denied education – and how literacy can mend families.
From school books to publishing, black girls deserve better representation
They’re the demographic most likely to read, says Varaidzo – so why are black girls not catered for?
How tackling poor literacy could benefit everyone
David Hughes, CEO of the Learning and Work Institute, on why devolved powers might be the key to change.
Why we should all be reading, and writing, about sex more
Joanna Walsh on “sex-literacy”.
Bribes, brothers and books on the road: how we learnt to love reading
Barbara Speed, Anna Leszkiewicz and Phil Maughan.
How do we ensure disadvantaged voices are heard?
Kit de Waal on the cost of writing – and how she tried to help level the playing field.
Political literacy and why the public aren’t stupid – even if politicians wish they were
Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin discusses what it means for different people to understand politics.