When the concept of literacy comes to mind, what does the average person think of? The ability to write? Or maybe the ability to read books? Each year, International Literacy Day (ILD) aims to showcase the best practices of literacy worldwide and explore new ways of promoting literacy with innovative programs and ideas. Literacy, however, is already on the rise! In countries all around the globe, statistics show the importance of taking literacy into account.
Take a country like Brazil. In 2000, around 94 percent of Brazilian youth were literate. In the past sixteen years, that percentage has increased to 99 percent. Five percent may not seem like a lot, but any growth of a literate population is a positive sign for developmental growth. But perhaps you’re looking for a more dramatic shift, and in that case – look to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They’ve increased their literacy rate for youth from 70 percent in 2000 to now 85 percent.
Who is the say that exploring the best literacy programs hasn’t led to that shift? International Literacy Day has been around since 1965 and countries all around the world celebrate it. Illiteracy is still common, with countries like Mali hovering at around 19 percent. The Human Development Index used by the UNDP even rates literacy as one of three indicators for measuring development of a society. Having access to education and using that knowledge is what makes celebrating literacy so important.
This year, the theme is digital literacy. It might seem at first counterintuitive to consider literacy in a digital society. Surely digitalisation precludes understanding how to read and write. But as our society slowly moves into a new digital era, countries need to consider the new challenges and opportunities that brings.
Technology is a tool that can bring literacy to more people in more places. The growth of the e-learning and digital literacy industry means that we can bring books to people who might never have the chance to otherwise read. On the flip side, however, technology brings challenges. The internet presents a massive amount of information growing by the second. As readers, we’re presented with a new test. How do we separate out what to read from what not to read? Have a look at www.sunbooks.org to see how technology can be used to increase access to quality education.
Literacy has never been more important. In the digital realm and in the physical world, literacy means education. Being able to read translates to the ability to fight for the change you wish to see in the world. Education is the stepping stone to equality and innovation.
2017 is the year to recognise how lucky those of us who have had the opportunity to read are. As you’re celebrating International Literacy Day this September, think about literacy has changed your life. Maybe take a moment to think of a way that you can use technology to bring literacy to others and make sure to watch out of the winners of the International Literacy Prizes!
Written by Gabriella Gricius