08 September 2010

Raising Awareness: Literacy

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?


Jules said...

A HUGE APPLAUSE for this post. A very admirable cause. Being in Kentucky I am well aware of the illiteracy rate.

Wonderful post to raise awareness. I donate used books to an Appalachian charity. Hope this counts. :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Amber T. Smith said...

Excellent post, Mari! I know there are many, many things in the world that are not right, and a lot of them more life-threatening than being illiterate, but knowing there are people out there who are missing out on the simple joy that reading can bring just makes me feel sad.

Natasha said...

What a fantastic post, Mari. Nothing Random about it at all- it is perhaps the most pertinent post BB&B has ever seen.
Educations if, of course, very very close to my own heart, and not surprisingly, we did have a discussion around it at home yesterday, which I ended up blogging about because you reminded me of the day.
And what really galls me (at least in an Indian context) is the fact that un-thought through schemes of the Government are actually undermining the little difference that non-profits have started making.
But, when I meet kids who's lives have been changed by education, I know hope lives.

M.J. Nicholls said...

Hurray! This is timely, as I just spent the last four-five days mainly reading. I often worry devoted readers put non-readers off, like two separate worlds.

Hart Johnson said...

It's so poweful, isn't it. It is a road in or out. An escape. A tool. This was a great reminder of the many things I take for granted, MANY of which are available to me because I read.

Cruella Collett said...

Jules - that definitely counts! And I am glad you liked today's topic. It should be close to all of our hearts.

Tara - you're right, of course, many things are worse than not being able to read. But since literacy is part of what makes people able to break out of these things, I still consider it one of the most important fields to address in the world today.

Natasha - it felt meant to be when the UN day fell on my Random Wednesday ;) The problem you mention - with governments hindering private intiatives makes me sad. In general I'm in favour of a strong government, one that can provide for most services, and especially education. In a huge country like India, however, this is probably not possible to achieve, and thus it is a shame that the government is not able to appreciate the steps taken by private organizations.

Mark - good job on celebrating World Literacy Day! While I do think "readers" can put "non-readers" off, I'm not sure that applies to the actual non-readers, those who are illiterate. At least I didn't know half the world didn't bother to learn how to read because you and I read books like they were chocolate-dipped truffles.

Tami - absolutely. The escapism offered by a book stands unmatched. By anything.

Deb and Barbara said...

Congrats, Mari. Well-said and much-needed.

LTM said...

does reading a blog count??? ;p this is great--thanks, girl~

Cruella Collett said...

B - I'm just glad to spread the word :)

L - absolutely. What better way to celebrate the written word and our ability to read it?

February Grace said...

This is such a thoughtful and thought provoking post- especially it really does remind one about parts of the world where they have to fight to have schools for girls- where women are purposely denied education to try to hold them back. Being able to read should be the right of every human being, no matter gender or country of birth.

Literacy is power. Thank you for reminding us to do all we can to make that power available to everyone we can.