Monday, March 22, 2010

Illiteracy linked to poverty

Illiteracy is one of the arenas in the fight against poverty and the proclamation of the gospel. According to The National Institute for Literacy, 43% of adults with very low literacy skill live in poverty and about 70% of adult welfare recipients have lower level literacy skill as measured by the National Assessment of the Adult Literacy.

Motivating children to improve their reading skills can break the chain of generational poverty that keep so many people from overcoming their bleak surroundings and spiritual bondage. William Carey, pioneer missionary to India, created schools for Indian children and adults to teach basic education. He believed that an educated Indian would be more willing to accept the gospel than one living in ignorance and superstition.

This summer Baptist Temple will be on mission at Eagle Pass where, among other projects, we will be placing mini libraries in the homes of poor families as part of Literacy Connexus Books for the Border program. The libraries consist of a modest shelf unit which contains a Bible, a Spanish-English dictionary and an assortment of children’s books.

First Baptist Church in Laguna Park, Texas created a community library in an unused room in their church using a few boxes of donated books. The church, which averages 100 in attendance, started with 350 books. Civic-minded individuals joined church members to increase the collection. Three years later they had over 8000 books and had moved to another building that includes a coffee shop and wireless internet access. Fridays and Saturdays feature live music.

Libraries and literacy are an issue in San Antonio. San Antonio has the second highest illiteracy rate in Texas and, at 15%, is significantly higher than the US average (9%). Churches can make a difference by teaching reading and English as a Second language and developing programs that encourage children to read.

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