By: Dr. Maryam Inayat
The goal of International Literacy Day, observed on September 8 each year, is to increase public awareness and concern about literacy problems that occur both locally and internationally. International Literacy Day was established in 1966 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to “remind the public of the importance of literacy as an issue of dignity and human rights.” International Literacy Day shifts the responsibility for illiteracy back to local communities, where literacy starts with just one person.
Great strides have been made in raising literacy rates more than 50 years since the first International Literacy Day. However, illiteracy is still a significant challenge on a global scale. The number of illiterate adults worldwide is thought to be above 750 million. Every country and culture on earth is impacted by illiteracy, including the United States, where 32 million people are supposed to be illiterate.
What exactly is literacy? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes literacy as “the characteristic or state of being literate: educated…capable of reading and writing.” It may come as a surprise to learn that people in your neighborhood cannot read this message but also books, restaurant menus, road signs, voting ballots, instruction manuals, prescription bottle labels, and cereal boxes. This is because you can read this content and, without a doubt, spend a significant amount of time online reading. Can you imagine how challenging it would be to survive in the modern world without the ability to read and write? Eliminating illiteracy in every local community is the aim of International Literacy Day.
The concept for International Literacy Day originated during the “World Conference of Ministers of Education for the Eradication of Illiteracy” in Tehran, Iran, in 1965. The following year, UNESCO took the initiative and declared September 8 as Worldwide Literacy Day, intending to raise awareness of the importance of literacy among individuals, groups, and societies worldwide and the demand for continued work toward a more literate society. The inaugural International Literacy Day was observed the following year as the international community took on the issue of eradicating illiteracy.
One asset that is sometimes disregarded is literacy. A significant aspect of our daily lives is reading. Being unable to read or write makes it challenging to go around and prevents you from experiencing many things.
On International Literacy Day, groups and people take responsibility for their literacy and utilize it to support and help those who struggle with reading and writing. Volunteers from the community, including students and working people, tutor local children. Donations of books are made to local libraries, and funding for student tuition and education is offered to help students launch their careers.
To create and implement the best policies for eradicating illiteracy, institutions, governments, and international organizations host think tanks, debate forums, and mass literacy campaigns. To raise money for the cause, they also host activities. International Literacy Day brings attention to a particular issue by selecting a topic each year. To raise awareness of the significance of literacy learning spaces in creating inclusive education for everyone, the theme for this year is “Transforming Literacy Learning Spaces.”
Increased literacy can boost one’s self-esteem and way of life. Lack of literacy skills limits social interaction among people of all ages, limiting adults and children from contributing fully to society and its advancement. Daily activities like reading, writing, and math-related tasks keep our brain cells healthy as we age and lower our risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s later in life. By improving our speaking language and enabling us to convey our feelings, thoughts, and ideas more clearly, learning to read and write helps us communicate with people more successfully. The skills of reading, writing, and working with numbers are necessary for employment and provide opportunities for moving up the socioeconomic ladder. The cycle of poverty is broken one life at a time by literacy. The key to personal empowerment is literacy, which gives us a sense of worth and dignity.
On this day, resolve to become both read and technologically literate and encourage others to do the same. Consider how you might promote a feeling of community to create a warm learning environment for all children.