The ability to read and write is something most adults in the Western world take for granted, but there are many adults in the developing world who have never had the opportunity to get an education. Illiteracy tends to be common in rural communities where there is very little infrastructure and education is rudimentary at best. Many children are put to work at an early age and thus never have the time to learn to read and write. Even in the West there are individuals who have never learned to read and write, despite school attendance being compulsory and the existence of a comprehensive education system.
Individuals who are unable to read and write will end up reliant on other people to tell them what is written wherever they go, especially if they are unable to read anything whatsoever, since they will not even be able to work out what simple signs tell them. They won’t be able to read what it says on a bottle of pills or know what a contract that they have to mark with an ‘x’ really says. They have to believe whatever they are told since they have no option but to, and if illiterate individuals never ask for help they could even end up endangering their life if they mix medications or take too many tablets, for instance.
Being able to read and write empowers individuals so that they can take control of their lives and improve their situation. Learning to read and write may just be the start, but once individuals have mastered these fundamental skills they can build on their education without listening to other people all the time. They can read for themselves and communicate using the written word, which is incredibly important in terms of people’s job prospects, especially in such a competitive job market.
Once people know how to read and write they actually have more choice about what they would like to do with their lives, since they can carry on with their education, even if it is a struggle to do so. If they know how to read and write they are unlikely to forget how to, and so at any stage in their life they can return to school and work towards qualifications. For people to get a decent job that pays reasonably well it helps if they are able to read and write, at the very least.
Obviously, being able to read and write doesn’t magically eradicate poverty, but it does enable those from poor backgrounds to expand their horizons and give them an opportunity to escape their situation.