Dear People Who Can't Read,
Recent studies show that America's rate of literacy is declining. Other studies argue the trend will not only continue, but worsen. You probably didn't see these studies because they were published in the written word, although rumors of a pending audio file addressing the studies are circulating.
Take it from someone who recently learned to read -- invest in some Dick and Jane books. Reading is important. In fact, I've found that learning to read has really bolstered my writing career. For too long I was writing but had no idea what I had written after the fact. Granted, I once took pride in being labeled as the "most prolific illiterate author of my generation" it wasn't until I started reading that I saw the statement in context and realized it was actually meant to be somewhere between a backhanded compliment and thinly veiled insult. As it turns out, one of my first books didn't have any punctuation, which made for a quicker read, sure, but it was arguably confusing.
Personally, I gained an appreciation for reading by watching movies. I've watched a lot of movies... probably too many. Did you know that they make movies in other countries now, too? You probably didn't. Here's the catch -- some of them aren't in English. They actually write the dialogue out on the screen. It's quite novel -- in fact, it's bit like a novel. Imagine a short book with pictures and occasional explosion sound effects. In the last few months I've read some really good movies. I really can't recommend them highly enough.
We need to be reading. And not just movies. Books. Magazines. Newspapers. Road signs. Even propaganda -- before we can dismiss it we need to give it a good read-through. Forget that old-fashioned, spoken hyperbole you are used to -- the most interesting propaganda is coming out in print these days. And that's not even just the subtitles on posters; I'm talking about entire paragraphs of lies.
For the handful of you reading this who may be literate, I encourage you to help those who can not yet read. Allow me to give some practical advice. When you meet someone who can't read, do what I do -- gift them a strongly worded pamphlet on the importance of literature or write them an open letter on the Internet. Change doesn't just happen, we have to do our part. You can't just wait around hoping people teach themselves.