Changing the world, one word at a time: International Literacy Day
Every year on September 8, International Literacy Day is observed to raise awareness and concern about literacy issues that exist both locally and globally.
If you can read this right now, you are more blessed than almost 800 million adults and over 250 million children worldwide who lack basic literacy skills.1
Yes, it's true: Even in this age of modern living, enlightenment, and technology, there are still people who can't read, write, and learn.
In South Africa, the statistics are bleak: According to nationally representative surveys, the adult illiteracy rate is at a staggering 12%, and more than half (58%) of South African children do not learn to read fluently and with comprehension in any language by the end of Grade four.2
Illiteracy comes at a high price
Literacy is a fundamental pillar of broader education. When we have the confidence to read, we have the confidence to learn, both in and out of the classroom.
Sadly, children and teens who have difficulty reading are more likely to drop out of school before completing their basic education. This creates a negative and profound ripple effect.
Did you know that The World Literacy Foundation estimates that illiteracy costs the global economy $1.5 trillion per year?3
No matter how ambitious one's goals and efforts are, a lack of basic literacy and numeracy abilities automatically disqualifies many people from a wide range of quality jobs, contributing to poverty and unemployment.
In fact, illiterate workers earn 30–42% less than their literate counterparts4 and are also more likely than those with better literacy skills to suffer poor health.5
The gift of literacy
There is far more to literacy than just being able to read a book or write a shopping list. Being able to read, write, and comprehend what you're reading gives you the building blocks you need to improve your quality of life and lays the groundwork for developing abilities needed to be self-sufficient.
Every literate woman marks a victory over poverty
Women account for more than two-thirds of the world's illiterates, according to The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). This statistic correlates with an estimation that 60% of chronically hungry people are women and girls.6
When the illiteracy cycle is broken, girls will be able to become economically engaged and self-sufficient, gaining a valuable asset for their own success: self-respect.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed the transformative effect on both a family and the wider community when a woman is literate. He said that literate women are more likely to send their children, especially their girls, to school.7
Women become more economically self-sufficient and active participants in their country's social, political, and cultural life when they learn to read and write.
Year after year, Read Educational Trust promotes literacy
READ Educational Trust, a non-profit organisation, has been working hard in the education and literacy sectors since 1979, implementing teacher training and literacy initiatives in schools.
READ, which is supported by people and the corporate sector, has made fantastic progress despite the enormity of the task at hand.
READ observes the importance of International Literacy Day to advance the literacy agenda towards a more literate and sustainable society.
- UNESCO | https://en.unesco.org/themes/literacy
- Progress in International Reading Literacy (PIRLS 2016)
- The Cost of Illiteracy | https://www.literacyworldwide.org/docs/default-source/resource-documents/ila-take-action-costs.pdf
- worldliteracyfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/ The-Economic-Social-Cost-of-Illiteracy.pdf;
- oecd.org/site/piaac/SkillsOutlook_2013 _ebook.pdf