Georgia' s Elected Officials Want to Ban Books. Meanwhile, the State's Literacy Rate is Shameful

Georgia’ s Elected Officials Want to Ban Books. Meanwhile, the State’s Literacy Rate is Shameful


Georgia stands at a crossroads. The state, grappling with a literacy rate that languishes at 76.4%, finds itself positioned at an unenviable 42nd place nationwide. This is not just a number; it translates into real economic repercussions.

Adults with poor literacy skills cost Georgia about $1.26 billion annually, with a significant portion of this sum, around $818 million, going to the prison system. What’s more, this challenge is mirrored in the younger generation, with over a third of Georgia’s third graders reading below grade level.

But, since The Peach State has so many adults who struggle with literacy, let’s define what literacy is. Literacy is not just about knowing words and being able to read. It is about understanding the ideas the words you read express. It means when you read, you can grasp the concepts behind the words. For example, reading about a historical event isn’t just memorizing dates and names; it’s understanding why it happened and its impact. Literacy equips you to take information from what you read and use it to understand the world better. It’s the difference between just seeing words on a page and being able to discuss what they mean in your own words.

Now, that we know what literacy is, let’s talk about where Georgia stands. Georgia’s literacy rate is 76.4%. That means just under 25% of Georgia residents either aren’t able to read or understand what they read. For the country as a whole, the literacy rate is 88%, that means about 12% of the population of the United States either isn’t able to read or understand what they read. So, Georgia has twice the percentage of people who can’t read and that is disgraceful.

Contrast this with states like New Hampshire and Minnesota, where literacy rates soar at 94.2% and 94.0% respectively. These states have invested in their education systems, prioritized literacy, and now reap the benefits of a more educated populace.

Georgia’s response? Last year the state has embarked on legislative measures and initiatives akin to Mississippi’s successful blueprint, which remarkably improved its national reading assessment rankings from 49th to 21st place. Mississippi now has an 84% literacy rate. That’s right folks, Mississippi residents are more literate than y’all.

Georgia’s own legislative efforts, encapsulated in House Bill 538 and Senate Bill 211 last year, which aim to screen young students for reading deficiencies and foster a more literate future generation.

But This Year, Lawmakers Are Banning Books

Yet, the question looms large: Is Georgia’s focus misplaced? In an era where book bans make headlines, one must ponder whether the censorship of content detracts from the vital mission of enhancing literacy. After all, literacy is the bedrock of education, enabling residents to navigate the world, access opportunities, and engage in informed discussions.

Is banning books and keeping Georgia residents — who already struggle with literacy — away from learning new ideas really the best thing to do to improve education and literacy in the state? We are, afterall behind Mississippi in literacy — a state we tend to mock for being uneducated.

Georgia’s struggle with literacy is not just a state issue; it’s a clarion call for introspection and action. It’s about setting priorities that foster education, empower individuals, and, ultimately, elevate the state. As we move forward will we continue our course of restricting access to literature or will we ensure every Georgian, young or old, can read the words on the page and comprehend their depth and nuance.

Many of our elected officials are responding to our poor literacy skills as a state by banning books and telling Georgia residents how to think instead of teaching Georgia residents how to read and comprehend so that new ideas aren’t scary.

Note: This is an opinion article as designated by the the category placement on this website. It is not news coverage. If this disclaimer is funny to you, it isn’t aimed at you — but some of your friends and neighbors honestly have trouble telling the difference.

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