International Literacy Day

September 8th  is International Literacy Day, and the month of September is  International Literacy Month.  Nearly 1/5 of adults in the world don’t know how to read or write. That’s about 775 million people that don’t posses these basic skills that are essential in being successful in today’s world. Sub-Saharan Africa and south and west Asia have the worst literacy rates- 50% of the people in these areas can not read or write.  Literacy affects one’s income, health, and even relationships. UNESCO says that “literacy skills are fundamental to informed decision-making, personal empowerment, active and passive participation in local and global social community.” Illiteracy can help  breed hate, violence, and ignorance.  Literacy can help reduce poverty and lead to further learning.  Have you ever thought of literacy as a right? The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights highlighted  the right to education.


Source: UN Human Development Report

While we typically think of the United States as a well-educated nation, in actuality, about 14 % of the population is illiterate.  The proceeding infographic says that 160 million people in rich countries struggle with literacy.

literacy around the world

Source: UNESCO

What are some causes of illiteracy? Fees for schooling prevent many from being literate. The need to work instead of attending school is an issue for many. Families and communities not seeing education as important can decrease literacy. Additionally, poverty is a huge factor in illiteracy. When you are worrying about having clothes to wear and food to eat, you aren’t as concerned about learning to read.

Why are more women than men illiterate? 2/3 of the illiterate are women. The cause for this is that women are not encouraged, as men are, to be educated in many parts of the world. In some countries, they are even discouraged. The education of women is often discouraged, because if women are educated, they may become a threat. Educated women may not stick to the traditional roles for women in their country.  Let’s get rid of this discrepancy!

What can we do to help solve the world’s literacy problem? The biggest thing that can be done is simply this: literacy and education must be promoted. It must be promoted by governments, by communities, and by families. All of these entities must stress the importance of being able to read and write. Do what you can this month to promote literacy.

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