International Literacy Day and Why It Matters

Today (8th September) in International Literacy Day. This year’s theme is ‘Literacy and Sustainable Development’ –

Literacy is one of the key elements needed to promote sustainable development, as it empowers people so that they can make the right decisions in the areas of economic growth, social development and environmental integration. Literacy is a basis for lifelong learning and plays a crucial foundational role in the creation of sustainable, prosperous and peaceful societies.  [Quote from here]

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Literacy is one of those things that is very often taken for granted, mostly by people like us in First World countries with decent education systems. I for one have had a passion for literature almost all my life, and I cannot think of a world without it; indeed I can’t remember a time before I could read.

Our education system is at once brilliant and flawed. We are very lucky to have it, but it does not succeed in every instance. Children with dyslexia or any other kind of ‘reading disorder’ may take significantly longer to learn to read, or be confident with reading, than their peers with no impairments. This is of course something that can be handled by special teachers and tutors, and ensuring the child gets the right support and methods of learning. But what about children who have no disorders, but their school does not have the resources to ensure their reading abilities? This is where literacy becomes a wider problem that affects people who should have every opportunity to learn how to read and write.

The Independent today published this article in which they state that lack of resources, on the part of the schools but also the families, can mean that some children cannot read well even at age 11, which is utterly awful and ridiculous. The article points out that some families have fewer than 10 books at home and children are not encouraged to read outside of school – as someone who comes from a naturally bookish family this issue has always interested me. I always find it strange when people don’t have many books at home, or don’t read many themselves. Even if you are not ‘bookish’, and don’t feel passionate about literature, there will still always be a book out there for you, in some form. It doesn’t have to be difficult or long, or particularly fancy. Hell, I’d rather you read something like Dan Brown than nothing at all. Graphic novels are also probably a good way to get back into reading, if long books intimidate. Anyway, my point is that people need to want to read, and in order for that to happen they need to find something that appeals to them as well as learn the benefits of reading. Not only is it fun, you also learn new things, and it’s like exercise for your brain. It gives you a window on another world and therefore, I think, could potentially help to bring attention to lives different from yours and encourage curiosity and empathy.

It’s also a skill, something I never think about as it is like second nature to me. English Literature was my best subject at school, and the subject of my degree, and so I have taken it for granted that I can construct a good sentence and express myself. I can also analyse a text and understand what is being said to me. This comes partly from studying, but also from years of reading books that were a bit too difficult for me – that is, from challenging myself. I believe that when we are not challenged we do not learn. A lack, or low level, of literacy cannot be allowed to stagnate if it “will do” or “is good enough”. I’m not saying we must all be Literature students, but I am saying that we must all learn to appreciate our language in all its forms, and be able to express ourselves well. Learning to read and write correctly improves vocabulary and expression. It builds confidence, especially in children, and is a key skill in almost all professions. There is no downside to improving your reading and writing skills.

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This post was written in conjunction with Grammarly’s scheme to promote literacy. By writing this I am encouraging literacy and highlighting its importance, and a donation will be made in my name to the charity of my choice – which is The Book Bus. They work in the UK as well as Africa, South America, and Asia, to bring books and literacy to children.

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1 thought on “International Literacy Day and Why It Matters”

  1. Excellent post, Lizzi. There used to be a scheme whereby children’s books were given to all parents of pre-school kids, a way of getting books into households that either could not afford them or where books weren’t part of the parents’ way of life. I’ve a horrible feeling that, like Sure Start, it may have been either curtailed or chopped completely. So short-sighted.

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