Thursday, April 17, 2008
One quarter of Monterey County’s residents read below the fourth-grade level, according to a Community Foundation for Monterey County report. This same study found 11 percent of county residents aren’t literate in any language.
“People react with shock” upon hearing these statistics, says Diane Cordero de Noriega, a professor of education at CSUMB who chairs the steering committee for the community foundation’s Literacy Campaign. “They think, ‘That can’t possibly be true.’ But whether they are taxpayers or business people, in the hospitality industry or ag industry, it has an impact on the economic health of the region.”
While places like Greenfield, with a large population of Oaxacan immigrants, have their own literacy challenges – transitioning the indigenous community from its native language, Triqui, to Spanish, and then from Spanish to English – “it’s not just South County,” Cordero de Noriega says. “It’s Soledad to Carmel.”
This week, the Monterey Bay Chapter of the United Nations Association hosts a free program, “Literacy: Its Impact on Health and Poverty,” featuring speakers Cordero de Noriega and Helene-Marie Gosselin, director of the North American Office of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the lead organization for the U.N. Literacy Decade.
The U.N. Literacy Decade, 2003-2012, is a global effort to raise political will to combat illiteracy. It ties into the U.N.’s eight Millennium Development Goals – which include halving extreme poverty, halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education – all by 2015, says Gosselin.
“If we want to meet all eight development goals set by the world community, you need education, and literacy is an important part of that to lift people out of poverty,” she says. “About 774 million adults are illiterate – not quite one-sixth of the world’s population. These numbers are unacceptable because literacy is a basic human right.”