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The Growth Of Awareness Of Adult Illiteracy In Britain

and messages he encounters.”5

The lengths to which people will go to hide their inability to handle the printed word are indications of the shame and disgrace they feel.  The ploy of the empty spectacle case "Oh, my glasses are at the menders"; the right arm in a sling, or bandaged fingers "I can't write at the moment"; inability to "decipher" a relative’s handwriting in letters; the labourer taking his time-sheets home to work on; all these and many more are used to hide the truth.

In terms of individual loss an inability to read and write can certainly lead to loss of promotional opportunities, monotonous poorly paid employment, narrowness of social contacts and difficulties in dealings with State and local government authorities with their innumerable forms and "written" demands.  There is also the personal diminution of regard and self-confidence, preventing the individual taking a full part in the life of the family and community.

An interesting factor is that of intelligence levels.  By no means are these illiterates all of low intellect.  A classification was attempted in 19706, which showed that 5% of students were of superior intelligence, and 45% were of average intelligence.  This indicates that there are many reasons for illiteracy beside the generally assumed one of poor learning ability.

In 1973 R. Michael Haviland published his Survey of Provision for Adult Illiteracy in England.  Among his findings was that although there were some 217 adult literacy programmes operating in England only just over 5.000 adults were receiving about six months teaching, from about 1,800 tutors (some 900 were volunteers).  His conclusions mirrored those of the British Association of Settlements "Right to Read" campaign (see Chapter 3): That it was necessary to co-ordinate and widen the provision for tuition, and to publicise the provision as plainly as possible to enable those who were illiterate to find a source of help quickly and easily.  Haviland recommended a National Adult Literacy Resource Centre to be set up to fulfil all these functions and support research and special projects into the problems.7

In Chapter 2, I show how these suggestions were met by the introduction of the Adult Literacy Resource Agency in 1975.

5 U.S. National Reading Center, 1971.

6 Adult Illiteracy,  National Association for Remdial Education, 1971.

7 Haviland, R. Michael: Study of Provision for Adult Illiteracy in England, Chapter V.

© Amity Reading Clubs and Betty Cooper 1978 to 2002 Page 7 of 51

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