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What Is International Literacy Day And How To Get Involved


As you read, do you ever take a second to stop and think about how you learned to read? What about when you’re writing? Once you know how to read and write, literacy becomes second nature and taken for granted. However, there are still hundreds of millions of people (roughly 775 million) around the world who lack basic literacy skills. Although education should be considered a human right, it’s not yet equal for all. That’s why taking part in International Literacy Day is so important to shed light on an issue that should be a thing of the past.

International Literacy Day 2020 is a unique one because of the pandemic that our world currently faces. It addresses how COVID-19 and moving to distance learning has impacted literacy. Let’s take a look on how the day evolved and what you can do to make a positive difference in the lives of those who have not yet learned literacy.

Person reading and practicing literacy
Photo by Lilly Rum on Unsplash

What Is International Literacy Day?

Literacy is defined as the ability to read and write. International Literacy Day takes place on September 8, and has the purpose to raise awareness worldwide about challenges that both adults and children face regarding literacy. UNESCO has been a key player in boosting global literacy since 1946.

Today, the organization works alongside governments, local communities, charities, and experts in the field of literacy to help achieve global literacy.

History Behind World Literacy Day

World Literacy Day was declared an international day in 1966 at the 14th session of UNESCO’s General Conference. The next year, the world got to take part in its inauguration.

The day has been centered on themes such as Literacy and Health, Literacy and Empowerment, and Literacy and Peace, for example. The United Nations has an Education For All program with goals, and International Literacy Day helps to support the cause.

How To Get Involved

One of the greatest aspects about the day is that there are so many ways you can get involved. Consider these ideas:

  • Donate Books: Have any books to spare? Drop them off at a local school, your community library, or donate them to friends and children you may know. The gift of a book is one that keeps on giving and can open the door to imagination, learning, and help to support a brighter tomorrow.
  • Gift A Book: Many people find books to be the perfect gift! If you have a favorite gift, consider buying it for someone you love and sharing it with them. A nice extra touch is to write a little note and put it inside the book for your friend or family member to read and remember where the book came from.
  • Create A Library: Have you ever walked around a neighborhood and stumbled upon a community library? It can be in the form of a box on the corner or even a more decorated stand with a little door. These often operate under the understanding that you give a book and take a book. In this way, you can finish a book and trust that someone else can go ahead to enjoy it after you. And, you get to pick a fresh find!
  • Volunteer At A Library: You can dedicate your time to volunteering at a library. Some duties may include: checking books out for people, restacking shelves, helping visitors find what they are looking for, etc.
  • Read Publicly Or Teach Kids How To Read And Write: Ready to make an impact through action? Read publicly or teach kids how to read and write. You can do this at bookstore events, libraries, schools, tutoring centers, or become an independent tutor.
  • Use Your Words To Support Others: Use your ability to write to share information with your network and community about how many people lack literacy skills. Create an action plan for how people can get involved in changing the status quo.

Why Does Literacy Matter?

When you think of reading and writing, you probably just think of books and articles and the notes that you write. But you read and write every single day and for so many different purposes. Literacy goes far beyond the enjoyment of getting lost in a book or penning a letter. It impacts life greatly.

For example:

  • Communication: You need to be able to read and write to understand markers of communication and also share your own knowledge. Think about getting to a restaurant and seeing a sign to wait for a host to be seated. You’ll need literacy to understand the cue. Or, on an even more serious scale, when you need to fill out important documents or sign legal paperwork, you’ll have to be able to read and understand contracts.
  • Knowledge Is Power: Ultimately, knowledge is something that no one can take away from you. This is what makes knowledge so powerful and transformative. Literacy is one major aspect of being able to acquire, retain, and share knowledge.
  • Employability And Enrollment: Jobs and schools will require that you are able to read and write to obtain a position or become a student. From taking tests in school to writing emails at a job, reading and writing become a part of your daily routine.
  • Participation In Communities And Politics: To be a participating person within society, literacy is pertinent. It will allow you to stay up-to-date on what’s going on within your community and to take action. It will also be needed to cast a vote.
  • Good For Your Brain: Your brain is a muscle that needs to be exercised just like your body. Literacy is like cardio for your mental matter. It can open new neural pathways and serve as means to learn new information.
Person writing on a notepad
Photo by Hannah Olinger on Unsplash

The Bottom Line

People lack literacy skills for different reasons. For some, they had no access to education because of war or poverty. For others, they have special learning needs that are left unaddressed. All people deserve the right to an education that consists of reading and writing. Literacy becomes a formative and continuous piece of everyday life in any location in the world.

But, with over 775 million people lacking literacy skills, it’s up to people who know how to read and write to take part in International Literacy Day to try to change the current situation.

University of the People