Councillors in charge of City Councils should improve their reading skills to be more effective in the discharge of their responsibilities, according to Wellington City Mayor Celia Wade-Brown.
A Massey University Professor has quoted a leaked email in which the Mayor had reportedly said that almost 25% of managers in public service suffered from low levels of print literacy skills.
Ms Wade-Brown was apparently referring only to Wellington City Councillors.
An adult literacy specialist says it is no surprise that the Wellington City Mayor wanted Councillors to hone their reading skills as research showed that a quarter of managers had low levels of print literacy ability.
Ms Wade-Brown suggested that Councillors learnt Te Reo (Maori), Mandarin and speed-reading to improve their on-the-job performance.
She even suggested ballroom dancing for public servants to maintain mental fitness.
But according to Professor Frank Sligo of the University, while ballroom dancing may stimulate the body and mind, it may not help people to read and understand better.
“The Mayor’s comments have raised a wider issue about adult literacy and the fact that some Councillors may struggle to tackle complex policy documents because they are not likely to be as print literate as others,” he said.
Adult literacy was a part of the work that he undertook with the ‘Adult Literacy and Communication Research Group’ of the University’s School of Communication, Journalism and Marketing.
Following an analysis of the Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey (2006) of the Education Ministry, he said about 25% of managers, senior administrators and legislators were likely to be at the two lowest levels on a five-step ranking of print literacy ability.
He said the first two steps usually indicated people were ‘learning to read’, rather than ‘reading to learn.’
“Nationally, about 50% of the same group of managers and legislators are at level three of five, which is regarded as the minimum level to cope with the demanding reading that is typical of modern complex environment.
“Just 25% of this Group are likely to be at levels four or five, indicating good-to-very good literacy skills,” he said.
Professor Sligo said learning how to read better came from regular reading and recommended Wellington City Council managers to visit their local library at least once a week.
“This would be the most effective use of time to upgrade reading and comprehension skills and would not cost anything, unlike ballroom dancing, “Professor Sligo said.