Reading is fundamental

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“To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.”

— Victor Hugo

For reasons we don’t understand, it’s hard to find recent and dependable information on illiteracy rates in Robeson County.

But no one would argue — convincingly at least — that illiteracy is not more of a problem here than most places, with about 20 percent of our residents unable to read and write at a level that enables them to function in day-to-day life without the occasional embarrassment of asking for help.

Imagine struggling to read not only a book or newspaper, but a street sign, a job application, a song’s lyrics, a restaurant menu, or your child’s report card.

Patricia Terrell, an award-winning author who uses the pen name p.m. terrell, is on a crusade to lift more Robesonians out of illiteracy’s dark world and into the brightness. She has a vested interest — authors need readers. We admit to being similarly motivated.

Terrell, along with an army of volunteers, about 200 strong, for the third time on Saturday waged a battle with illiteracy during the third annual Book ‘Em North Carolina Writer’s Conference and Book Fair at Robeson Community College. The event included about 75 authors and publishers as well as a handful of genuine celebrities who shared information on their craft and also sold a few books.

There is a ton of information on Book ‘Em on the front page of today’s The Robesonian for those who missed the event and would like to know more.

Terrell’s attack on illiteracy is two-pronged.

She hopes that visitors to Book ‘Em will be inspired by all of the worlds that are opened through literacy and then will meet the parental responsibility of making sure their children are strong readers and writers, and that those skills will be passed down to future generations, becoming a sturdy branch on the family tree.

But the free event is also a fundraiser, with authors donating a portion of money raised through the sale of their books. During the past two years, $18,600 has been raised, and this year more is expected. Those dollars will be shuffled to the front line of the war on illiteracy, to the Dolly Parton Imagination Library of Robeson County to buy books for children 5 and under; to Communities in Schools of Robeson County to buy books for all grade levels; to Friends of the Robeson County Public Library to tackle adult illiteracy; and to Lumberton police for their Reading Across America campaign.

So join us in extending appreciation to Terrell, who has adopted Lumberton and Robeson County as her home and has put this important effort on the front page for all to see — and most to be able to read. The war on illiteracy should end only when all Robesonians can read the words, recognize why they were arranged accordingly and understand what they mean.


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