Let’s support literacy! September 8th is International Literacy Day, and it’s the perfect chance to plan your daily give to support literacy. In turn, your daily give will improve futures for everyone. Because literacy is fundamental, it not only enriches a person’s life, but it creates opportunities for people to provide for themselves and their families.
Some of us take reading and writing for granted. If you live in a developed country, you likely started school and learned to read and write at a young age. Unfortunately, not everyone has this luxury. In some countries, the literacy rate (the number of people that are least 15 years old that can read and write), is very low.
Many countries are fortunate to have high literacy rates with ample opportunities for developing skills in reading and writing, while others have staggeringly low literacy rates. Nations like Canada, the US, Italy, Russia, Korea, Hungary, Poland, and Cuba enjoy literacy rates of 99% and higher. At the same time, Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Guinea and the Central African Republic have literacy rates lower than 40%. There are also countries where the percentage of the literate population is even lower, such as South Sudan, where only 27% of the population can read and write, and Niger, where their literacy rate of 19% is currently the lowest in the world.
The statistics are startling. According to the United Nations, 773 million adults and young people lack basic literacy skills and 617 million children, and adolescents are not achieving minimum proficiency levels in reading and mathematics.
The fact is, literacy is power. The ability to seek out and understand information gives us all independence to make choices, to learn about our communities, and to advocate for ourselves and others and those lacking basic reading and writing skills are at a tremendous disadvantage. Literacy is a powerful tool against poverty.
This is why UNESCO created International Literacy Day in 1966, to remind us of the importance of literacy for individuals, communities and societies, and the need for greater efforts toward a more literate world. Today, over 50 years later, it seems more important than ever to focus our attention on intensifying literacy efforts. During global pandemic lockdowns, literacy challenges have been magnified. Schools closed, and most adult literacy programmes that did exist were suspended. For some, such as myself in Toronto, Canada, pandemic protocols have also resulted in libraries remaining closed.
Advocating for literacy is needed now more than ever. Whether focusing your attention locally or to the broader global community, now is the perfect time to use your daily give to support literacy and create change. And remember – No give or act of advocacy is too small. You might make a difference in an individual’s relationship with reading or books or writing in ways you see, and in ways, you don’t. But each step, and each give, makes a difference.
A small donation of $5 can help an organization like the World Literacy Foundation to provide learning resources to children in some of the most vulnerable nations of the world. Contributing to efforts like these will help to lift young people out of poverty through the power of literacy.
Just about every town or city has one. Donate your time with an organization supporting literacy efforts. Help new English learners strengthen their skills, assist recent immigrants to read the necessary documents that navigate them towards building a new life. Start searching online to find a place where a little bit of your time can make a big difference.
Families have tight budgets, and schools are under-funded. A simple donation of a pack of pencils, pens, or erasers can help. If you are interested in assisting a specific school or program, contact them to see what their classroom needs, or simply surprise one near you today.
If you already have one, bring someone along who doesn’t. Encourage your friends or family to get theirs. Make sure your kids have their own as well. The more people that have library cards, the better. Library card counts, and the number of items checked out are important statistics that are collected and used to advocate for and secure more funding for public libraries. If, like me, your public library is currently closed for COVID-19 regulations, keep this idea on the back burner for your much-anticipated return. In the meantime, take advantage of your library’s digital services of online reading materials, these stats matter too, and the best part of online books – no late fees!
There are likely non-profit or government agencies in your area where the gift of a book would mean the world to a child. Shelters for homeless families, for example, not only need children’s books inside their facilities but may also collect book donations to be used as presents during the holidays. This give will not only encourage an appreciation for reading but may also provide a treasured gift for a vulnerable child whose world is anything but a fairy tale.
Foster a love for books on a tiny patch of your front lawn or join with neighbours to make one in your community. Everyone can come together to donate books and encourage reading and sharing locally.
Even better, make it a local independent, or online independent bookstore, this way, you are supporting literacy, teachers, AND small businesses.
Send emails or write letters to local representatives and officials expressing the importance of libraries, schools, literacy programs, and events that promote reading and writing. Encourage increased and continual funding for literary programs and services that enrich the lives of many.
Supporting literacy and helping someone to read and write effectively improves the future of everyone in society, so start planning your literacy gives now. For these and other giving ideas join the 365give community today.