Reading, Writing, and Revolution

The bicycle is proving itself as an instrument of gentle revolution, helping to change not just how cities are used, but how they are shaped. Bike lanes do more than facilitate low-impact travel; they enrichen businesses and create community where before there was only stress, noise, and smog. More and more people saddle up for city travel every day, often counting on smartphone apps to help them make sense of this new old way of moving. The revolution proceeds apace, and everyone, it seems, is joining in.

But…what if you can’t read?

Sure, some smartphone apps can talk—but can you hear them over the roar of traffic? And blogs, Twitter, event calendars, the lamestream press, thousands of fine magazines online and off with advice and information on everything from fixing your bike to fixing the world—all depend on reading. You won’t get very far in your pleasures and pursuits if your only source of information is YouTube, podcasts, radio, and TV. They’re nice, but they’re a slow way to feed your brain data, and then you’re utterly dependent on memory. And being able to look them up again later.

Besides, only reading is an effective tool for fact-checking. And then, there’s the pleasure of making contact with the whole of literate humanity through fiction and essays. Don’t discount it: tech firms are hiring English majors now because they understand more about how humanity functions than the mere functionaries ever can.

So, you say, Why is Rick blithering on about all this on a blog? If I’m reading it, that means I can read! Right?

That’s right. But…about one in five US residents can’t read, and many more can’t read well enough to do anything except just get by. Native-born people too!

That means that, unless you’re a hermit, you probably know someone who can’t read, or who can barely read.

And I am blithering about all this because I’m now working for the Los Angeles Public Library’s Adult Literacy Program. So if you know someone who has trouble with reading—they may have dropped out of school, they may have been busted and thrown into juvie, they may have grown up in the backwoods; they may be perfectly literate in some other language but not in English—refer them to us.

They’ll receive one-on-one tutoring at no cost. Even the workbooks and other materials will be free of charge. And after a while they’ll be able to join the bigger world that exists behind the printed page.

And maybe themselves become the Thomas Paines of the Bicycle Revolution.

Call, or have your friend call, 213-228-7037. And if they live in Echo Park, have them ask for Extension 70819, or just drop by the Echo Park branch. That’s where I sit, four days a week. I’ll help them myself.

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