“Aliteracy”?: a threat to print media

This paper focuses on the problems faced by South Africa because of its high incidence of aliterates. Whereas a literate person can read and write, an aliterate can read, but chooses not to do so. It was hypothesised that one of the reasons why people are aliterate is because they do not write. When a person writes, an interest in the use of words and what they mean is stimulated. This encourages reading. This hypothesis was tested as part of a survey of South African urban adults who had attended high school. It was presumed that such people could read. High levels of aliteracy were found, even with people in the top income category and among those in senior positions. There was also a significant relationship between reading and writing. The results have serious implications for educators, marketers and in the long term for South Africa.

The survey was conducted for the Print Media Association of South Africa. The results have led to a major campaign to improve reading skills of primary school children, as it was appreciated that print has no future without readers. The findings have also been of considerable interest to print media, especially newspapers.

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