International Literacy Day takes place on September 8 every year to raise awareness and concern for literacy problems that exist within our own local communities as well as globally. International Literacy Day was founded by proclamation of The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, in 1966 “to remind the public of the importance of literacy as a matter of dignity and human rights.” International Literacy Day brings ownership of the challenges of illiteracy back home to local communities where literacy begins, one person at a time.
Although much progress has been made in improving literacy rates in the more than fifty years since the first International Literacy Day, illiteracy remains a global problem. There are thought to be more than 750 million adults around the world who cannot read. The scourge of Illiteracy spares no nation or culture on earth, including the United States, where an estimated 32 million American adults are illiterate.
What exactly is literacy? Miriam-Webster Dictionary defines literacy as “the quality or state of being literate: educated…able to read and write.” Because you are able to read this post and no doubt spend a lot of time reading online, it may seem incredulous to learn there are people living and working in your own community who not only cannot read this post, but are unable to read a book, a restaurant menu, a road sign, a voting ballot, an instruction manual, a prescription bottle label, or a cereal box.
Can you imagine navigating modern-day life without the basic ability to read and write? Wiping out illiteracy in every local community around the world is what International Literacy Day is all about.
International Literacy Day was first conceived at the “World Conference of Ministers of Education on the Eradication of Illiteracy” held in Tehran, Iran in 1965. The following year UNESCO took the lead and declared September 8 as International Literacy Day, with the primary purpose being “…to remind the international community of the importance of literacy for individuals, communities and societies, and the need for intensified efforts towards more literate societies.” One year later, the global community accepted the challenge of ending illiteracy by participating in the first International Literacy Day.