Happy International Literacy Day!

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.”

Get Involved

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.

Donate books

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.

Charity Donations

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.

Volunteer

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?


💖 If you like the work that I do here at Reader Voracious, consider fueling my pumpkin spice latte and black tie addiction by buying me a ko-fi or joining my Patreon!

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10 Comments

  1. Erin Eliza

    September 8, 2019 at 10:30 AM

    ugh little free libraries are the most darling things I could cry every time I see one, I want to put one in my front lawn ahahah

    1. Kal

      September 11, 2019 at 11:49 AM

      I love them so much, and I was so happy to see they are found internationally as well! I legit want to install one in my neighborhood.

  2. TheCaffeinatedReader

    September 9, 2019 at 12:00 PM

    I really love to donate to programs that help to promote literacy, I think it’s so important. Monetary wise I can donate to a couple of charities each year but we do have a program here in the UK and they take the books you donate, selling them to make a profit for their charity to buy books for children in their program to promote literacy here. It’s pretty amazing. Thanks so much for sharing these great ideas and promoting the importance of this day!

    1. Kal

      September 11, 2019 at 1:19 PM

      I also try to donate to a few charities every year; working in the philanthropic sector, giving back is very important to me. That program sounds awesome!

  3. danielle

    September 10, 2019 at 1:44 PM

    We do take reading for granted, and this post is so informative and instructive. I’ve never heard of International Literacy Day, so this was really helpful for me.

    1. Kal

      September 11, 2019 at 1:30 PM

      I am glad I was able to make you aware of this day, Danielle! I actually didn’t know it existed until last year — it seems to be one of the lesser promoted UN Days, which kind of makes my heart hurt.

  4. BookerTalk

    September 11, 2019 at 9:11 AM

    Thanks for that detailed response and helpful info Kat. I’ll make a note in my calendar so won’t miss it next year

    1. Kal

      September 11, 2019 at 1:39 PM

      Thanks for reading!

  5. Kelly | Another Book in the Wall

    September 15, 2019 at 4:34 PM

    (I’m a little bit late to this post, but …) Awww, this is so sweet! I really love this, Kal! <3 It's true that here in the West, we honestly do take reading for granted! There are so many people across the globe who don't have the same privilege and opportunities we have for education. Thanks for all the great resources for charity donations!

    1. Kal

      September 17, 2019 at 12:37 PM

      Better late than never, and tbh the content and meaning doesn’t have a due date! Thanks so much for reading, love.

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