International Literacy Day, on September 8, is a moment to both celebrate achievements and take a look at what needs to be done in the years ahead. Even today, there are at least 750 million adults, including 102 million adolescents, who lack basic literacy skills. Imagine reading the following on a poster. Could you unscramble the following sentence?
Terilyca lwasllo lpeope ot ecedhpri tseret snigs, erda a srapepnwe, rlaen iloygob ni slocho, ntasrduned lealg apeprs ot strta a ubsisens, adn accsse a wlheat fo noiitmnfora no het nrneeitt.
If you’re feeling frustrated, imagine what it’s like to be illiterate—locked into one frame of reference, without the ability to communicate critically or understand important conversations in print.
Literacy allows people to decipher street signs, read a newspaper, learn biology in school, understand legal papers to start a business, and access a wealth of information on the Internet. (How about now?)
As the impact of technology seeps into the work economy, the gap between the demand for highly-skilled workers and the illiterate seems to widen. However, the very technology allowing for a fourth industrial revolution can also power future learning. Time and time again, education has proven to be a vital “escape route” in vicious cycles of poverty. Literacy allows people to both improve their standard of living. Literate workers contribute to equitable and sustainable societies. While recognizing the strides needed, there’s also a lot to celebrate. According to UNICEF, the youth literacy rate has risen from 83% to 91% in just two decades!
Here are four ways you can celebrate International Literacy Day by applying the magic of literacy to your own life:
Get a library card—and pick up a book!
When was the last time you sat down and read a book? Whether it’s from your local bookstore, Amazon, or on your Kindle, reading opens doors to a wealth of knowledge and adventure. Books give you a window into the lives of others around the world. With books like The Last Hunger Season and I Am Malala, you can be a wallflower on the lives of Kenyan smallholder farmers or a teenage girl living in Pakistan.
One of the best resources is also likely down the street from you: your local library. Go online and sign up for a library card today—it’s completely free!
In July 2018, FH celebrated a new public library in Ethiopia’s Oromiya region that will serve more than 3,300 students.
If you’re at a loss for where to start, check out these 10 children’s books that teach about poverty. Our Chief Development Officer has also recommended 4 books that have helped him be a better leader. You can also sign up for a Goodreads account to “meet your next favorite book” and see what your friends are reading, or see recommended titles based on books you’ve read in the past.
Planning a vacation? Learn a new language (even an indigenous language).
Already thinking about your Christmas travel plans abroad, to places like Italy or Israel? Why not learn the language as well, and kick up a conversation with a local? Online applications like Duolingo make learning a new language fun and easy, as you collect tokens and rack up streaks on your way to becoming a wordmaster. You can even compete with a friend or join a local meetup group in your city to get “live” practice. (Did we mention it’s free?)
For aspiring polyglots, UNESCO announced 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages. Up for a challenge? If you’ve ever thought about hiking the 3-day trek to Machu Picchu, why not try your hand at Quechua? You never know how many friends you might make along the way.
Participate in an ILD event–or desktop vocabulary game to end world hunger
All around the world, communities will be celebrating International Literacy Day. Events range from children’s storytime readings, to discussions with Poet Laureates. To find events near you (or get ideas to start your own), visit UNESCO’s official event list or search Facebook.
Remember Freerice, the vocabulary game from the early 2000s? It’s still around. For every correct answer, 10 grains of rice are raised to help end world hunger through the World Food Programme. Whether you’re studying for the GRE (try starting at level 30) or simply want to sharpen your mind, this vocabulary game will stretch your mental energy across oceans. Everyone knows that when you’re hungry, it’s hard to study or get anything else done.
Help fund a school library abroad.
Many developing countries don’t have libraries in their communities. By supporting FH, you are building libraries that could impact millions in places like Ethiopia, Cambodia, and Nicaragua. Beyond providing books to school-age children, libraries also serve as safe community spaces to study, especially for kids who don’t have electricity at home. Click here to fund an ongoing library project, or sponsor a child to provide them access to high-quality education—right in their community.