September 8 was proclaimed International Literacy Day by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1965. On this day each year, UNESCO reminds the international community of the status and importance of global literacy (which is at 84.1%).
According to UNESCO, there are 781 million people worldwide (⅔ of whom are women) who cannot read or write; 126 million children (under the age of 15) set to follow in their footsteps because they aren’t attending school.
There are many ways that we (I’m talking about you and me!) can make a difference. We can donate, volunteer, advocate, and much more. There are LOTS (lots!) of organizations focused on improving global literacy. We could not include them all (you’d be reading for a long time!). We highlighted a few to show what they are currently doing to help mitigate this worldwide issue:
1) Book Aid International
Book Aid International increases access to books and supports literacy, education, and development in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2013, Book Aid sent more than a half million books to Africa and since 1954, has delivered more than 30 million books to libraries throughout the continent. The organization believes that, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, books are vital for quality education, raising literacy levels, providing information and underpinning development.
Current Work: Book Aid International is currently working on a campaign called Open Doors, which hopes to create 60 Children’s Corners libraries in Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Cameroon, Zambia, and Zimbabwe in the next four years. They want to give children the tools they need to realize and help achieve their dreams.
2) Reading is Fundamental
Reading is Fundamental (RIF) is the largest children’s literacy nonprofit in the United States. They prepare and motivate children to read by delivering free books and literacy resources, inspiring them to be lifelong readers through the power of choice. RIF’s vision is a literate America in which all children have access to books and discover the joys and values of reading.
Current Work: In March 2011, Congress eliminated RIF’s federal funding at a time when many families needed their help the most. RIF now has to serve 2 million fewer children due to the budget cuts. They are currently working on reaching out to Congress to ask for support in funding children’s literacy. The critical action will help restore funds for books and literacy resources for children.
3) Get Smart Oregon
Get Smart Oregon (SMART) strives to show children that reading is fun and a positive experience by pairing them with caring, adult volunteers. They model a love of reading and work to build children’s reading skills and self-confidence. The intention of SMART is to provide a literary experience that entices children into books and reading, supports children’s efforts to learn to read and celebrate their successes.
Current Work: SMART is constantly pairing passionate adult volunteers with children in need of reading support. Children read with two different volunteers each week for seven months, totaling up to 28 hours of individual volunteer attention. Volunteers model the joy of reading, while supporting the child’s efforts to read independently.
Reading teaches, stimulates, and improves memory and analyzing skills. It creates thinkers and leaders out of everyday people. See what you can do to help make the world a more literate place.