International Literacy Day falls on 8th September. Originally designated by UNESCO in 1966, the day seeks to raise the importance of literacy to all countries and cultures.
Why do we need International Literacy Day?
International Literacy Day brings with it an important message. The United Nations says, “Literacy is not just about educating. Literacy is a unique and powerful tool to eradicate poverty and a strong means for social and human progress.”
Even in developed countries, the wealth gap and the disparity between communities can be striking. In the UK, one in eight disadvantaged children does not own a single book – seriously impacting that child’s future prospects and holding them back throughout their life.
UK charity The Literacy Trust works to put books in the hands of disadvantaged youngsters, aiding their literacy, wellbeing and future prospects. International Literacy Day is an important pivot for its fundraising activity as it seeks to raise funds to promote its work through “books and bakes” events, on social media and with a call for donations of £7 – the typical cost of a children’s book.
Literacy forms a key plank in the United Nation’s sustainable development goals. The agenda, adopted by world leaders in September 2015, promotes universal access to quality education and learning opportunities. On a fundamental life-saving level, literacy has proved to be essential during the pandemic; in the early days, without it people have been deprived of vital, lifesaving information.
Further, literacy empowers individuals to improve their lives and improves their ability to choose the kind of life they can value. On a national basis, literacy rates in the global south are lower than the more developed north. COVID-19 has exacerbated the problem, with more children unable to attend school. International Literacy Day seeks to remedy this situation by exploring the interplay between literacy and digital skills in order to build a solid foundation for human centred recovery around the world.
Worldwide, over 775 million adults struggle with basic literacy – and more than two thirds of this number are women. While wonderful role models like Malala Yousafzai have championed female literacy in recent years, pandemic-induced poverty, global instability – including the worsening situation in Afghanistan – and other disruptive factors like climate change, hit women the hardest when it comes to literacy. As Malala herself stated, “I tell my story not because it is unique, but because it is the story of many girls.”
International Literacy Day 2021 will focus on teaching and learning during the COVID-19 crisis. With so many children sent home from school, existing inequalities have been exacerbated and it’s feared that some children’s progress has been impacted for life.
Teachers and educators have strived to continue literacy and learning throughout these difficult periods, adapting to new ways of teaching and learning. International Literacy Day 2021 seeks to share knowledge and experience to embed some of the best practice responses during the global pandemic response throughout the world.