September is Basic Education and Literacy Month in Rotary.  What a great start we had for the month with an awesome program this week: Literacy Volunteers of Bangor.  Our speakers were Executive Director Mary Lyon and one of their students, Linda, who kept us spellbound with her inspiring story.  Wrenching herself out of a miserable and abusive life born of her own illiteracy, she found in LVB an advocate and friend.  It was hard work but she learned to read and has made a successful new life with her new husband and children. 
No one need argue the point...the statistics are well published.  Literacy is one of the most powerful tools we have to battle poverty.  Why?  Because virtually every form of education is built upon a foundation of literacy.  Though many people have found ways to function without it, it cannot be denied that it is an essential ingredient in economic development in the world today.  Yet, according to the Department of Education, there are over 32 million adults in the United States, 14% of the population, who cannot read; 19% of high school graduates cannot read; and 21% of adults in our country read below a 5th grade level rendering them functionally illiterate. 
Illiteracy hurts us all even if we ourselves can read.  It is linked to poor productivity, crime, and health care costs.  More than 60% of prison inmates and a whopping 85% of juvenile offenders are functionally illiterate…that is a bit more than a mere coincidence.  Illiteracy is a major component in poverty and has distinct links to crime statistics.  Functional illiteracy adversely affects all of us.  If you move this conversation into the global arena, the numbers become staggering.  Around the world, nearly 800 million people lack simple literacy and numeracy skills; 98% of them are in developing countries.  And two thirds of these people, who cannot read so much as a job application, are female. 
Here at home there are thousands of people right in the Bangor area who need help with their reading skills.  Enter Literacy Volunteers of Bangor.  They are helping people everyday and when they help one person learn to read, they have helped all of us.  For more information on this great organization click on their logo above.