Friday, November 25, 2005

Great Literature Amid Illiteracy
An extraordinary piece by AP writer Emily Wagster Pettus exposes the south's dirty little secret: illiteracy.
The piece focuses on Mississippi, which has the nation's lowest literacy rate, yet an astonshing literary history. Quoting Mississipi authors past and present, Pettus tries to make sense of an entrenched malaise for which underfunding and racism are only partly responsible.
"This clash of literature and illiteracy is one of the great contradictions in a region filled with them. And it's particularly stark in Mississippi, where studies have found that 30 percent of adults can't read well enough to fill out a job application, the dropout rate is 40 percent and public schools rank near the bottom in nearly every category."
To try and combat the problem Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale has pledged $100 million to the Barksdale Reading Institute, to get children reading as early as preschool. Meanwhile, the housekeeper at the State Capitol, at age 59, still struggles to read fluently.

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