Local author Patricia Terrell had an ulterior motive for bringing the Book ‘Em North Carolina event to Robeson County. The event, whose second chapter was written on Saturday at Robeson Community College, gathered authors and others in the world of publishing together to share their stories, sell a book or more — and, most importantly, raise some money in the local fight against illiteracy.
Terrell, who writes under the pen name p.m. terrell, depends on people who can read and write to sell books. A book to someone who is illiterate is basically a Rubik’s cube.
We have said it before, but it can’t be trumpeted enough: Literacy is the key that unlocks all doors. Those who can’t read and write, whether because of circumstances beyond their control or their own neglect, are condemned to a half-empty life. Their opportunities in the workforce are next to none, and the simple things the rest of us take for granted — reading a menu, a Christmas card, a book to a grandchild or a street sign — only taunt them.
In Robeson County, the problem is worse than most places, with an estimated 20 percent of the population being functionally illiterate. That helps explain why this county has one of the highest rates of unemployment in the state, and one of the worst crime rates as well.
It’s not a problem that can be solved overnight, but the Book ‘Em event can help with the small bites that must be taken. Terrell is passionate about the event, and she is to be commended for her tireless efforts on behalf of her adopted home county.
There are other assaults on illiteracy taking place as well.
On Friday, Theodor Seuss Geisel, who would have turned 109 on Saturday, will be celebrated in our local schools. Geisel is better known as Dr. Seuss, and wrote such children’s classics as “Green Eggs and Ham,” “The Cat in the Hat,” “Horton Hatches the Egg,” “Horton Hears a Who!,” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” Volunteers that day will be reading from Dr. Seuss’ books to children in elementary schools across the county, hoping to inspire them to learn to read proficiently so that they can reap all the rewards.
This editorial would be incomplete if we didn’t mention the ongoing effort by the county chapter of the United Way to raise money to buy books to distribute for free to children in this county who have not yet reached their fifth birthday. The organization’s signature event in that effort, Dancing with the Robeson County Stars, is March 23, and you can contribute by visiting www.unitedwayrobeson.org. and making a donation by casting a ballot for your favorite couple.
But there are more fronts on which this battle should be waged. This county’s library system is among the most poorly funded in the state on a per-capita basis, and pleas to the county Board of Commissioners to try to relieve us of that sorry distinction so far have been ignored.
The commissioners say the county doesn’t have the money — but a benefit of being able to read is that you know this is a matter of misplaced priorities. There is no defense for a county with commissioners who are among the best paid in the state and with the best benefits to ignore the needs of a library system that so many poor people depend on in their quest for a better and more-rounded life.
That also can’t be said or read enough — at least until it’s made right.