I do realize that today isn’t Reading Monday, and that I even used my previous opportunity to write something sensible about reading to ramble in the randomest fashion. I do that. However, I feel that today calls for a Reading Monday Extraordinaire because today, September 8th, is World Literacy Day.
Reading is one of the things I often take for granted in my everyday life. Not one day passes without me reading for several hours, at the very least. It doesn’t necessarily have to be books, but from the moment I get out of bed to read the morning news online till the last quick email check before bed – I read all the time. Try to imagine what a day without reading would be. No computer, no newspaper. You couldn’t even read at the cereal box. Basically, it is inconceivable for us (and yes, I have checked that this word means what I think it means).
And yet, out of the 7 billion people on this Earth, only about 4 billion are literate. To the remaining 3 billion people, the problem isn’t that they cannot read this blog or on the back of a cereal box. The problem is that they are not (or have not been) able to go to school. There are many jobs they cannot have. In many cases they cannot vote, even if they are fortunate enough to live in a country where that is an option. Illiteracy is more often than not connected to poverty. Because these people cannot read, they are hindered from so many opportunities that potentially could improve their quality of life considerably.
Literacy is a Human Right, and 3 billion of us are not yet in a position to enjoy it.
So, what is being done? Actually, we are nearing the end of the United Nations Literacy Decade. It was initiated in 2003, it’s led by UNESCO, and the goal is to increase the literacy rate by 50% by 2015. At the halfway point of the decade, in 2008, UNESCO concluded that there was reason for “cautious optimism”. The literacy rates are increasing, but there are large groups who remain of concern. Many of these are women. As a way of directing the focus to this problem, today’s UN celebration of World Literacy Day will be a tribute to women empowerment through literacy.
The UN is working towards increased literacy rates. Perhaps we can as well? In celebration of World Literacy Day, I encourage you all to read a book. Or visit a library. Or just help spread the word about this cause that needs awareness. Maybe we can make a difference?