If you’re reading this, you probably cannot fathom not being able to read or comprehend the instructions listed on your pill bottle, or being unable to understand the information on a job application, but for millions of adults, this is a reality. 

Even simple daily tasks are paralyzing obstacles when trying to navigate the world with low literacy skills.

September is National Literacy Month, which aims to draw focus to the literacy issue our state and our nation face. The pivotal role that literacy plays in our economic development and job skills training cannot be overstated and the sooner we introduce reading and literacy to young people as a way of life, the better we are as a society in the long-run. 

While this month is designated to create awareness on the subject, efforts to promote reading and learning as a family-centered activity, throughout each generation of family members is ongoing, a process that must continue long after September ends.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, reading proficiency by third grade is one of the most important predictors of whether a student will graduate high school and succeed in a career, yet according to a 2011 study by the U.S. Department of Education, 32 million adults — about 1 in 7 — in the U.S. can’t read.

While those numbers are on the decline, there is still important work to do in improving our literacy skills as a society. The most important method, however, is making a concerted effort to make reading a regular practice in our homes and our families, setting the right example for young people to follow.

Those of us who are reading this editorial may question the call for alarm or wonder why it should matter to all of us. Here are just a few reasons why: 

•Low health literacy costs up to $238 billion in the U.S. each year.

•Low literacy’s effects cost our country $225 billion or more each year in non-productivity in the workforce, crime and loss of tax revenue. 

•More than 60 percent of all state and federal corrections inmates can barely read and write.

It all adds up to impact all of us, and especially, future generations. Children of parents who are unemployed and have not completed high school are five times more likely to drop out than children of employed parents. Children's literacy levels are strongly linked to the educational level of their parents, especially their mother.

The only way to tackle the issue community-wide is through working to strengthen local partnerships among businesses, local school systems and government entities.

Literacy is a lifelong process for many of us and it must become a way of life for all of us.

Ten years ago, the Milledgeville and Baldwin County community took a series of severe hits with job losses during the economic downtown. We recently took another hit with the announcement of the impending closure of the local Mohawk plant. While there has been a tremendous amount of effort since those hits a decade ago to improve the job skills and literacy levels of the local workforce and curb the dropout rate, we must remain diligent on these fronts if we want to be prepared to lure more jobs to the local community. 

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