TV One - Screened Monday August 28th at 8.30pm
The Trouble With Words
Trouble With Words is a documentary about two people who are typical of thousands of adult New Zealanders who struggle to cope with the basic literacy demands of their daily lives. For some it might be that they can't handle the bus timetable, or they pretend to have forgotten their glasses so that the kind person in the bank will fill in the form for them. They don't read the details of the labels on the food they buy, they don't read newspapers, never go the library, will never use a computer and are shut out of the world that opens up to everyone else through all of this information.
This documentary highlights the experiences of people who have literacy problems through the stories of two people who left school with very limited reading and writing ability and have both kept this secret hidden. Now, in their forties they have begun to transform themselves through learning.
New Zealand used to be recognized internationally for its high standards of literacy. But that was forty years ago. Now our literacy levels are poor. An international survey, the IALS conducted in NZ in the late 1990s is considered to still be the best review of the literacy levels of New Zealanders. Measuring literacy on a scale from 1 to 5 with 1 being the lowest level, this survey found that one in 5 NZ adults have a literacy level of just 1. This means more than half a million adult New Zealanders struggle with their competency in either reading, writing, numeracy, comprehension or all of these.
We once considered ourselves to be a very literate country but in fact, like many other western nations, our population is failing to keep up with the literate demands of the modern world. 27% of our working population have no formal qualifications, not even School Certificate. 48% of prison inmates in New Zealand can't read or write beyond the level of a 10 year old. One in five New Zealanders aged over 18 wouldn't even get through the opening line of this page. The statistics just go on and on.
Poor literacy is a hidden problem and the people affected are skilled at concealing their secret. They never carry a pen, they don't run bank accounts, they always buy the same few items at the supermarket. They slipped through their 10 years at school unnoticed and work hard to remain unnoticed as adults, using every imaginable ploy to conceal the fact that they can't read menus or food labels at the supermarket, can't write cheques, read the newspaper or a map, and even dread the phone ringing in case they have to take a message.
There is no one cause of literacy problems. But there are common threads in the life stories of people who reach adulthood with reading and writing problems. They probably moved schools often, have parents who live separately, didn't have books in their home growing up and are adept at blending into the background. For some or all of these reasons a child can grow into an illiterate adult.
"Trouble With Words" focuses on two adults who had kept their
literacy problems a secret all their lives, until they took the
brave step of revealing their secret in order to shed light on this
surprisingly common problem.
*Teletext Captions Page 801
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