Dec. 12—Lucky, fortunate, prosperous, advantageous, beneficial.
Those words all describe what it means to live in a high-literacy state.
Minnesota is second in the country when it comes to literacy rates in 2022, just behind New Hampshire, according to World Population Review, a website that tracks global data and trends.
That means 94% of the state's population is literate, with only 6% of adults lacking basic prose literacy skills.
Much of that success can be attributed to our value of education at all ages, reaching across the years in early childhood and continuing to the elderly. Living in a state that supports strong K-12 public education and is home to a diverse offering of higher-ed institutions, we are well aware that education takes us places, even if we stay in our home towns.
And easy access to reading materials is a key tool to achieving literacy, from nonprofits that give new parents books to read to their babies to library programs that keep kids reading during summer and other school breaks.
Libraries are part of the lifeblood of many of our communities, getting materials and resources to people in multiple ways. A recent sampling by Minnesota Public Radio News of what people check out the most in their libraries offers a glimpse of the variety of offerings. From driver's manuals to novels by favorite Minnesota author William Kent Krueger, readers found what they wanted at libraries across the state.
About 69.9% of Minnesota residents are registered library users, the second-highest in the country. During a time when book bans made many headlines and libraries nationwide received a record number of challenges against materials they circulated, knowing that most of the state's residents value an abundance of reading materials is a satisfying fact.
Locally, literacy efforts are nonstop. For several years a group of retired educators called A-OK has been making efforts to make sure more kids have access to both mind and body fuel through meals and books. Greater Mankato Area United Way organizes the Reading Festival at the YMCA where families get free reading materials from Capstone, a local publisher of kids' books.
The Olseth Family Foundation, in conjunction with the United Way, for years has distributed a new hardcover copy of Shel Silverstein's iconic book "Where the Sidewalk Ends" to fourth-grade students in the area. Reading Corps tutors help numerous students in our schools.
The number of area literacy projects could probably fill a book. It is lucky, fortunate, prosperous, advantageous, beneficial — choose your own term from the many possibilities — to have access to the world of the written word in so many ways.