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Literacy, never too early or too late – Welia Health

Literacy, never too early or too late

Close-up of young female reading a book

Literacy, by its simplest definition, is the ability to read and write. But we know that the power of literacy is its ability to help us connect to, engage with, and relate to the world around us through the written word.

Literacy is the cornerstone of education. It enables us to seek out information, explore new subjects and gain a deeper understating of the world. Studies demonstrate, the direct correlation between the ability to read and write and graduation rates, employment, and community safety. At an individual level, literacy improves self-esteem, health, and overall quality of life.

Welia Health is proud to support Newspapers in the Schools, a program that ensures students at Hinckley-Finlayson High have access to the weekly newspaper, helping inform them about current events, community affairs, local politics, the economy, entertainment, sports, and business. The act of reading the daily newspaper is a healthy habit that improves language and communication skills, skills that enrich our lives in many ways.

Hinckley-Finlayson High seniors reading the Hinckley News.
Hinckley-Finlayson High seniors reading the Hinckley News.

When asked, most people would say that don’t know anyone with a reading problem. But more than 43 million adults in the U.S. cannot read, write or do math above the third-grade level. Nearly every social issue is impacted by low literacy rates.

  • Employment and wages: Workers age 25 and over who don’t have a high school diploma have the highest unemployment rate (5.4%) and lowest median weekly earnings ($592).
  • Incarceration: 3 out of every four individuals incarcerated at the state level did not complete high school. 85% of juvenile offenders have problems reading.
  • Voting: Americans with low literacy levels are less likely to be politically engaged or understand what is going on in politics. The single best indicator of whether a person votes is whether they read a newspaper.
  • Healthcare: Individuals with low literacy levels have less health-related knowledge, receive less preventive care, have poorer control of their chronic illnesses, and are hospitalized more frequently than other patients.

Health literacy
Welia Health recognizes how literacy impacts our work every day. Our patients ‘health literacy’ reflects the degree to which they can find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and their loved ones. Generally, higher levels of literacy equate to greater health literacy, a wider understanding of the implications of unhealthy behavior, and an increased ability to navigate the health care system – all of which lead to better health.

Encouraging literacy

There is no such thing as ‘too early’ when it comes to promoting childhood literacy.

  • Read aloud. The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.
  • Get to your local library. East Central Regional Library promotes early literacy with “One Thousand Books Before Kindergarten.” Take the challenge with your young ones.
  • Encourage reading for fun. The more students read or are read to for fun on their own time and at home, the higher their reading scores, generally.
  • Ensure access to printed materials. Whether in the home or at classroom libraries, easy access to age-appropriate books correlates significantly with higher reading scores for children. Check with your nearby elementary school to see if they will accept donations of children’s books and fill up those classroom bookshelves.

It’s also never ‘too late’ to make a difference with adult literacy.

  • Support literacy organizations. Volunteer with or donate to organizations such as Literacy Minnesota or ProLiteracy who aim to improve literacy rates through educational programs and advocacy.