Yesterday, I took up the #DoNotReadThis challenge to try and not read anything for one day, to raise awareness for the 773 million people from around the world who can't read and write.
Do you know how long I lasted? One hour. Possibly less. Okay, it was within minutes of waking. One of my children, who was planning to bake, asked me whether we had baking powder. Absently and half asleep, I searched the pantry and found it for her. As I read the used-by date (circa 2005 - oops), my husband looked at me in horror. 'You've already read something,' he (correctly) accused. I couldn't believe it. I knew it was going to be hard going for a day without email, books and writing, but I had no idea what it was going to be like.
I tried to start again, but I had to drive one of my children somewhere I had never been. Guess what I needed - the street directory. I went for a walk someone new and got lost and had to read the street signs so I knew where I was. I ducked into the shops for a browse and checked the price of a shirt before I realised what I was doing. My phone rung, and I looked at who was calling. In the end, I realised two things. One: I was hopeless at this challenge. Two: I truly cannot even grapple with what it must be like not to be able to read.
What would it be like not to know where you are going, what you are cooking with, how much medication to give a child, the joys of reading, the gift of reading to your children? It's unfathomable, but sadly there are so many people around the world who can't. And, it's not right.
As quoted on the website of the charity, Room to Read: 'Educating girls and women is widely acknowledged as the most powerful and effective way to address global poverty. Women who finish secondary school earn more money, have smaller, healthier families, and are more likely to educate their own children—breaking the cycle of illiteracy in one generation.'
I applaud Room to Read for what they are doing to try and address this issue, and will continue to look for small ways to help (clearly, not reading is not my strongest point).
I encourage you to try and do what I did: not read. I'm sure you will do much better than me, but I am also sure you will gain a better insight into how hard it must be not to be able to read. Join me, and let me know how you go. Happy not reading.
Check it out: http://www.roomtoread.org/