Each year, International Literacy Day is an occasion for worldwide mobilization for literacy. Today, I call upon governments, intergovernmental organizations, development partners, employers, trade unions and civil society organizations everywhere to stop the neglect of youth and adult literacy and to strengthen their commitment to literacy. Literacy is not just about reading and writing, it is about self-respect and human dignity and about opportunities that give hope to individuals, families, communities and entire societies. Literacy, an integral part of the right to education, has shown itself time and time again to be a vital tool of empowerment. It is time for the right to education of all persons, of whatever age, to be realized in practice.
—Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO
I don’t think I have to tell other bookworms about the value of literacy. Reading and writing are not only useful skills, but they bring us great joy and satisfaction in life. I don’t think we can imagine what it’s like to be one of the three quarters of a billion adults in the world without basic literacy skills. Not only are they deprived of the joys of reading, they are shut out from the means to improve their lives, exercise their rights, and participate in their societies. As a result they are liable to life-long poverty, exploitation, and a terrible sense of helplessness.
There is much that we can do to remedy the situation. One of the most obvious is to support literacy charities operating domestically and internationally. I have a few of my favourites featured in the footer of this blog, but there are many others. I would suggest using a reputable donation portal like Canada Helps or Charity Navigator (USA) to search for literacy programs.
You can also help every time you shop for books online by using the new Bibliotarian website. At Bibliotarian you can comparison shop for new and used books, and when you make your purchase the relevant affiliate fees are sent to charity. Half goes to the Book Wish Foundation, which runs Bibliotarian and supports literacy programs for Darfur refugees in Chad, and the other half goes to the (U.S.) charity of your choice. It’s a great way to give the gift of literacy while you are enjoying your own literacy.
“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”