In the Puritan society, literacy is the key to understanding God and his message. Without it, in their eyes, you could not be considered a true follower of God. The Puritans believed that the Bible was God’s final word and was full of true stories. They valued the ability to read so highly purely because they believed that everyone should have the ability to read the Bible, which is what motivated them to start the first schools in the New World. The Puritans felt strongly that in order to succeed you must be a “good” follower of the lord so that he would bless you with good fortune and success, and in order to do so you must study scripture. They believed that God had already decided who was going to heaven and who was going to hell and that the only way to ensure their path to heaven was by living the Puritan way of life with an emphasis on having read the Bible firsthand.
In modern society, most people in the world are able to read but they weren’t taught how to for the same reasons as the Puritans were. Today, literacy is an important part of being a functioning member of society and becoming educated through the school systems. Literacy is valued because a strong education leads to a successful career and a way to earn a living for you and your family. Some people in today’s society still highly value religion and reading the Bible but it’s no longer the sole reason our children learn to read like it was in Puritan society. Those you do still use their ability to read for religious purposes also don’t hold the same value to the Bible as the Puritans once did. It varies depending on the religion and the individual’s beliefs, but it is more common for one’s beliefs today to be much more personal as opposed to being a very literal interpretation of the Bible itself. Although we no longer base our need for literacy upon being able to study scripture, we have the Puritans to thank for being the first to create schools in America to teach children to read. No matter what the motivation was back then versus what it is now the importance of having the ability to read has timeless value.
Levine, Robert S., et al. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. W.W. Norton & Company, 2017.