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Literacy Quotes

From The Quotable Book Lover, edited by Ben Jacobs & Helena Hjalmarsson


It's easy to take for granted learning to read and write as children, but not every child has that opportunity. Many adults yearn still to read, to write, and many hide the yearning because it's embarrassing.

From the pages of The Quotable Book Lover, edited by Ben Jacobs & Helena Hjalmarsson, the following quotations on literacy show the wide range of reasons literacy is important at every age.

1. "...I must always be intolerant of ignorance..." — Maya Angelou

"She began the first of what we later called 'my lessons in living.' She said that I must always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy." — Maya Angelou in "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" (1970)

See more Maya Angelou quotes from Jone Johnson Lewis, Guide to Women's History

2. "The man who does not read good books..." — Mark Twain

"The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them." — Mark Twain (1835-1910)

See a collection of Mark Twain writings at Classic Literature.

3. "Were it left to me to decide..." — Thomas Jefferson

"Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them." — Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)

4. "For newly freed slaves..." — James W. Fraser

"For newly freed slaves, going to school, learning to read and write, were essential steps in the process of freedom." — James W. Fraser (1944- )

5. "Freedom is not merely the chance to do as one pleases..." — C. Wright Mills

"Freedom is not merely the chance to do as one pleases; neither is it merely the opportunity to choose between set alternatives. Freedom is, first of all, the chance to formulate the available choices, to argue over them—and then the opportunity to choose. That is why freedom cannot exist without an enlarged role of human reason in human affairs." — C. Wright Mills (1916-1962)

Read a biography of C. Wright Mills from Sociology Guide Ashley Crossman.

6. "Literacy salvaged my life." — Sharon Jean Hamilton

"Literacy salvaged my life. It is as simple and fundamental as that." — Sharon Jean Hamilton

Sharon Jean Hamilton, Ph.D. wrote "My Name's Not Susie: A Life Transformed by Literacy," published in 1997. She taught English at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis for many years.

7. "...reading itself may well be on the way to obsolescence." — Janet Healy

"The state of literacy in the United States today is declining so precipitously, while video and computer technologies are becoming so powerful that the act of reading itself may well be on the way to obsolescence." — Janet E. Healy

Prove Healy wrong. Read a book.

8. "The notion of multiple literacies..." — Jerome Bruner

"The notion of multiple literacies recognized that there are many ways of being—and of becoming—literate, and that how literacy develops and how it is used depend on the particular social and cultural setting." — Jerome Bruner in "Acts of Meaning" (1970)

9. "I'm quite illiterate..." — Holden Caulfield

"I'm quite illiterate, but I read a lot." — Holden Caulfield in J. D. Salinger's "Catcher in the Rye."

For more about Holden Caulfield and books about "The Catcher in the Rye," see Esther Lombardi's Classic Literature site.

10. "What is it to be literate?" — Margaret Meek

"What is it to be literate? ... Our literacy, autobiographies reveal riches and gaps, but these narratives are not tales of solitary journeys. We were always in dialogue with others—those who taught us to read, those for whom we wrote, who lent us books, shaped our preferences, encouraged us, forbade us even. They were dead poets, living authors, cynical critics. We remember them as friends who made our world more habitable, who helped us, as we read and wrote, to discover who we were and who we could become." — Margaret Meek

Margaret Meek is the author of "Learning to Read," "On Being Literate," and other books.

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