Literacy is the ability to read and write. Not everyone can do that. In fact, more than 700 million people in the world cannot read or write. That’s more people than there are in Canada, the United States and Mexico combined!
International Literacy Day, which takes place on September 8 every year, is a day for people who can read and write to help those who don’t know how. It is also a day to enjoy and practice these two skills.
Let’s see why reading and writing are so important, and then how International Literacy Day came about. After that, we will list some ways to celebrate the day.
When you started learning to read, you first learned the alphabet. Then you learned the sounds the letters made. Soon you could spell simple words like dog, cat, eat, see, and run. It didn’t take long before you could read short sentences. The dog ate. See the cat run.
You got better and better and soon you were reading books. Books about your favorite sport or band. Books on programming a computer or preparing cookies. Books about magical heroes or real-life detectives.
Reading has opened up a whole new world, allowing you to learn and experience things just by looking at words on a page.
Imagine not being able to read. Not books, not signs, not birthday cards, nothing. Imagine not even knowing how to write your name.
There are many reasons why people don’t learn to read and write. Maybe there are not enough schools in their country. Or their family is too poor. Either their culture or their tribe or the color of their skin prevents them from receiving an education.
International Literacy Day is one way to change that.
International Literacy Day was started in 1966 by an organization called UNESCO, which stands for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
Instead of saying all those words every time, people just say UNESCO, making it sound like one word (u-NES-ko, rhymes with you MESS so).
In 1945, towards the end of the Second World War, 44 countries decided to create an organization – UNESCO – which would focus on peace and on building a better world. One of the goals of the new organization was to prevent another world war.
To do this, UNESCO has worked to improve three things in people’s lives: education; science and the value of different cultures.
Today, UNESCO has 193 member countries, divided into five regions: Africa; Arab States; Asia and the Pacific; Europe and North America; and Latin America.
UNESCO’s various programs are grouped into five major areas: education; Natural Sciences; Social and human sciences; Culture; and Communications and Information.
One of the most important parts of the educational effort is teaching people to read and write. If a person cannot do these two things, their life and their ability to find work and earn a living are very limited. UNESCO therefore strives to ensure that people everywhere have the opportunity to be literate.
Here are some activities people do to celebrate International Literacy Day.
Read aloud to someone. Most people, adults and children, like to be read to.
Help young children learn and sing the ABC song. Let them try writing the alphabet, either on paper or on a phone or tablet.
Drawing and coloring — again, on paper or on a phone or tablet — helps people learn to control the muscles in their hands and fingers that they’ll need to write.
Tell others what your favorite books are.
Gift someone — or a library! — a book as a gift.
Ask an adult to help you find a pen pal. Your correspondent may be someone in another state or even another country. Writing and receiving letters is fun.
Participate in a read marathon in which a class or family or friends attempt to read a certain number of pages (or books!) in a certain amount of time. It might even become a contest to see who could read the most.
Join a book club. Everyone reads the same book, then gets together and discusses it. Who was your favorite character? What surprised you? Where in the book would you like to live? Etc.
Of all the holidays of the year, International Literacy Day should be celebrated by everyone, those who read and write and those who need to learn.
• Country singer Dolly Parton started a charity called Imagination Library in 1995. It offers free books to preschoolers. She has donated over £186million to young children.
• International Literacy Day is often referred to by its three initials: ILD (said one letter at a time).
• The theme for this year’s ILD is “Transforming Learning Spaces into Literacy”.