June 2007
Literature and Literacy

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WE’VE always made much of our being a highly literate people, but somehow that hasn’t made us into a nation of readers. Surveys have shown that our primary sources for information are radio and television, and years of annual book fairs have done little to prop up our ever-struggling local book industry.

In an essay that opens i Report’s June series on Literature and Literacy, former education undersecretary Juan Miguel Luz explains why we are a country that does not read, and how this fact has rendered us uncompetitive in the global economy. But he makes clear first that while literacy and reading are related, “literacy is a level of competence, while reading is a skill. One can be literate but not necessarily a reader because reading, as a skill, requires the development of a habit that must be exercised daily if it is to be retained and enhanced. If left unexercised, the skill becomes rusty and can even be lost.”

Luz also has a mouthful to say about our literacy rate, but it might be best if you check out the rest of his piece (the better to exercise your reading skill).

For the rest of June, our reading menu includes a look at vernacular literature, as well as discussions on chick lit, comics, and children’s books (but not in one article, of course). Because this is the age of technology, we will also explore the impact of texting on our language skills. To complement all that reading, we’ve prepared podcasts of local poets reading their own works, too.

Filipinos, however, may still be volumes away from having an attitude like Marx — Groucho, not Karl — who once said, “I find television to be very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go in the other room and read a book.”