Murray Faulkner is the Chief of Police (Retired) of London Police Services. He has been a dedicated community leader and volunteer with countless local and national nonprofits for his entire career, including Canadian Cancer Society, Special Olympics Canada, YMCA of Western Ontario, and St. Joseph’s Healthcare Foundation. He recently established the Faulkner Family Fund with the London Community Foundation to support literacy-related projects.
I was a police officer for 36 years in our city. I have seen the life that people live when they they struggle with literacy. It’s not a life that anyone wants. Reading, and more importantly understanding what you read, is almost as important as the oxygen we need to breathe. It might sound like an exaggeration, but it truly is not. Not having a full understanding of what’s going on around you holds you back. That means you won’t reach your full potential.
Unfortunately, many people in London suffer from low literacy. This has a direct impact on their success in our community. There is a clear cause and effect relationship between one’s reading ability and the ability to succeed. Although it is not a direct cause of criminal behaviour, low literacy and crime are related. Criminal offenders are three times as likely than the rest of the population to have literacy issues.
In Canada, for every 100 people entering correctional facilities, 79 of them don’t have their high school diploma. And 65 of them have less than a grade 8 literacy level. A Canadian study shows that prison literacy programs can reduce repeat offenses by up to 30%. Literacy training gives young people who are at risk of delinquent behaviour the skills they need to find and keep jobs and move out of poverty. At least 75 of 100 adults in prison were repeat offenders in their youth. So, improving literacy for young people could have a significant impact on crime rates.
There are programs for anyone, at any age, that can help, like Literacy London. If you’re a parent, then reading to your child is one of the most important things you can do to give them the best start in life. Reading isn’t a “nice to have”, it’s a “must have”. But reading isn’t the only thing that’s important. Talking and singing and playing games are good ways to help your child hear and interact with more words.
Literacy is a passion of mine. As a family, we’ve set up the Faulkner Family Fund , and we hope to have a positive impact on the literacy skills of local children and youth by granting to various organizations. But you can start at home. Right now.
Giving your child the best start in life, where they can reach their full potential, starts with words.