WODONGA’S deputy mayor Ed Foulston sees a big role for Facebook and Twitter in the fight against illiteracy.
“Social media was meant to kill off the written word, letters and books, but it hasn’t,” he said yesterday.
“It has become more important to read and write,
“Facebook and Twitter are encouraging people to read and can improve literacy.”
Cr Foulston, speaking at the Wodonga launch of the National Year of Reading, said he hoped reading and writing skills would improve as young people become more web savvy.
“From there, hopefully, the growth will be in libraries and internet search engines,” he said.
Council and library workers regularly encounter people who need help with simple reading and writing tasks.
Library community service co-ordinator, Heidi Stabb, said some people didn’t know how to fill in forms or use the internet.
“We help people navigate the Centrelink website,” she said.
“We also have adult literacy books for reading and some to help them learn.”
A Skills Australia 2010 report says 46 per cent of Australians have literacy scores below the minimum level to perform basic tasks.
This means they struggle to read a newspaper, follow a recipe or understand the instructions on a medicine bottle.
Wodonga Council’s Debra Mudra said it is difficult to know if that statistic reflected the Wodonga community.
She said literacy was important to the council and its efforts to improve it targeted the early years with such programs as Storytime Anytime.
“Our data on children who move from preschool to school is good,” Ms Mudra said.
“It’s about how we invest in literacy — through our library and events we hold — so we can give children a really good start in life.”
Ms Mudra said while she agreed social media now played a big role in modern life, it was important to keep the “balance right”.
“We don’t want to get to the point where people don’t interact from day to day,” she said.