Every year the world celebrates International Literacy Day on 8 September. The event is an opportunity to reflect on the world literacy rates and key challenges faced around the world.
This year’s theme: Literacy and Multilingualism
International Literacy Day 2019 will focus on ‘Literacy and Multilingualism.’ Despite progress made, literacy challenges persist, distributed unevenly across countries and populations. Embracing linguistic diversity in education and literacy development is central to addressing these literacy challenges and to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
On the occasion of International Literacy Day 2019, the main characteristics of multilingualism in today’s globalized and digitalized world will be discussed, together with their implications for literacy in policies and practice in order to achieve greater inclusion in multilingual contexts
– Source: United Nations Events Page
According to Our World in Data, 13.75% of the world’s population remained illiterate in 2016. Which is a lot of progress over the last 200 years (about 13% of the population was literate in 1820!), there is still a significant way to go.
The World is Multilingual
Multilingualism is the use of two or more languages by a person or community of speakers (like a country). According to the Linguistic Society of America, “contrary to what is often believed, most of the world’s population is bilingual or multilingual. Monolingualism is characteristic of only a minority of the world’s peoples.”
If you are in the position to do so, here are some ways that you can get involved: donating unwanted books, charity donations, or volunteering.
Have you gone through your bookshelves lately? Consider unhauling the books you won’t read again to your local library, Little Free Library (I did a search and found one in Nigeria, for instance!), or favorite charity shop!
If you live in a country without library access, see if you can create a Little Free Library or reach out to community groups to see if you could help establish a lending library with some of your unwanted books.
If you are in the position to do so and want to make a tax-deductible charity donation, here is a list of literacy charities that I recommend.
- The World Literacy Foundation assists grassroots literacy organizations with the aim to ensure that every child can read and write. I like this non-profit because it sends the money to organizations within the country rather than forcing a literacy model upon them that may not work.
- Book Aid International sends books to community libraries around the world.
- Books for the Barrios sends books to depressed regions of the Philippines, as well as provide teacher and library training.
- Little Free Library is the largest grassroots book-sharing network and it enables almost anyone to start up a little library for their community. “Contribution[s] build stronger communities, improves literacy, and helps us offer Little Free Library book-sharing boxes to communities with limited access to books.”
- There are many more literacy charities, check out this list from Bustle if none of the above are what you are looking for!
If you are a reader who wants to get books directly into the hands of a marginalized reader, consider fulfilling a #BookishWish or two! This hashtag movement started a little over one year ago and has been a great way for more privileged readers to pay it forward to others. For more information about Bookish Wish, check out this post over at bookdragonism.
One of the most rewarding volunteering experiences that I’ve had was helping to increase adult literacy. If you have the time and desire, perhaps you will be able to find volunteer opportunities where you live.
This could be tutoring, reading stories to kids in a library, or even helping with social media/outreach for literacy organizations in your area! The possibilities are endless depending on your skills and interests.
Reading is a privilege that a lot of us in the West take for granted. It’s important to discuss International Literacy Day on the blog today because I am passionate about lifting the voices of marginalized readers to showcase the challenges and encourage more empathy. (Please stop telling people to go to a library. Not everyone has access to them!) If you want to learn more, The Reading Around the Globe interview series highlights specific challenges and barriers of access to books.
Thank you so much for reading and I hope you found this post helpful! How will you be celebrating International Literacy Day? Do you donate to any literacy charities that I didn’t mention?