Fahrenheit 451 and LCNV

August 26, 2011 at 12:27 PM | Posted in AmeriCorps, Basic Literacy, ESOL, Family Learning, Staff, Tutoring, Uncategorized, Volunteers | 1 Comment
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In honor of Ray Bradbury’s 91st birthday this week I decided to reread Fahrenheit 451.  Rereading this book as an adult, I found myself thinking quite a bit about the work we do at LCNV.  Arguably Bradbury’s best known work, Fahrenheit 451 is an eerie novel set in the near future in a society that outlaws books.  Rather than fight fires, Bradbury’s firemen are charged with finding and destroying outlawed books, and all books are outlawed.  Owners of these books are punished severely.


We can thank our lucky stars that Bradbury’s fictional world does not exist in northern Virginia.  People are free to read what they like in books, magazines, newspapers or on the electronic device du jour.  However, this isn’t the case for many people across the globe.  Around the world women are routinely denied access to education and punished for trying to improve their lives and the lives of their families through education.

Lack of education and illiteracy is a problem in our own back yard as well, as evidenced by the many natural-born citizens who contact the literacy council every day.  Regardless of where someone comes from, LCNV tries to help, because without the skills to read the many texts available to us, we are denying access to knowledge, just as though we were burning books.  Bradbury’s hero comes to the realization that destroying knowledge is a terrible mistake and says, “We have everything we need to be happy, but we aren’t happy.  Something’s missing.  I looked around.  The only think I positively knew was gone was the books I’d burned in ten or twelve years.  So I thought books might help.”

Many LCNV students have full, happy lives.  Many have exceptionally complicated lives with some of those complications being caused or exacerbated by their limited literacy skills.  It can be overwhelming to try to help someone who is surrounded by difficulties that seem larger than life.  Giving someone the tools they need to become fully literate provides access to the larger world and all of the services to which people are entitled.  Denying access to literacy marginalizes people and limits opportunities to lead a full, productive and happy life.  But, teach someone to read and there’s no telling what might happen.  I have to agree with Bradbury, “books might help.”

Molly Chilton, Tutoring Program Specialist

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