Why call attention to literacy? Is it really that big of an issue? Check out these statistics:
* Some 774 million adults worldwide lack minimum literacy skills, and two-thirds of them are women.
* 75 million children are out of school, and many more attend sporadically or drop out.
* Between 94 and 115 million children lack access to education altogether.
But wait! There has been progress: there are now close to four billion literate people worldwide! And the people of UNESCO and other supporting organizations believe we can push that number ever higher. In fact, in 2003, the UN General Assembly launched what they have dubbed The Literacy Decade, set to run from January 1, 2003 and continue through the end of 2012. Their goal: "increasing literacy levels by 50% by the year 2015."
The theme of this year's International Literacy Day is "Literacy is the Best Remedy," putting special focus on the important connection between literacy and health. Celebrations are planned worldwide - too many for me to list here. But you can find information on several of them by visiting UNESCO's web page.
Here in the United States, the International Reading Association plans a celebration on Monday, September 8, 2008 at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Public Library in Washington, DC. This year's special guest is author and former National Teacher of the Year, Sharon Draper. For more details, check out the IRA's International Literacy Day web page.
There are many, many resources out there with ideas for celebrating International Literacy Day with children. Parents and teachers may want to check out Crayola.com's ILD web page - full of activities, printables and lesson plans tailored to this most important day. Teachers will want to visit readwritethink.org for lesson plans, web links and more to use in the classroom to explore literacy in a variety of interactive ways.
Hold on, though. This party isn't only for the kids! ProLiteracy.org has a very informative PDF file full of statistics, history, and activities for adults to celebrate International Literacy Day. You can also check out the Global Development Research Center's web page for some great ideas. The National Institute for Literacy has a web page full of links, resources, information, and ways for adults to get involved.
Those of us who are literate tend to take that ability for granted. It's up to us as parents and teachers and concerned adults to help children see how powerful literacy is, and to realize what wonderful things they can do as a literate person. It's also our responsibility to help those who are not literate, but would dearly love to be. Visit any of the links within this post, or the Sources list at the end of this post, for websites to point you in the right direction or for more information.
So check out the websites. Read up. Find out how to get involved. Even though September 8 is already upon us, even if you're just finding out about this most important day, don't let that stop you from learning more and finding ways to help. Because working to provide literacy to all is much more than a one-day job...