How often don’t we take it for granted  – this reading and writing. Let’s spare a thought today on International Literacy Day for the one fifth of the world’s population who are unable to enjoy and reap the rewards of what is now recognised as an inalienable human right – literacy.

Whilst in Roman era only 1% of the population was literate this has gradually increased over time in the western world and beyond to 99%, particularly following the Industrial Revolution. However, many areas in the world, such as Burkina Faso, South Sudan and Afghanistan, suffer from literacy rates of just above 20%. Of the one fifth illiterate people in the world, two-thirds are women, further disenfranchising and disempowering them from an active involvement in the community.

The International Literacy Day was established in 1965 by UNESCO to highlight the shocking illiteracy in the world as well as supporting and creating multifold organisations to improve literacy. They see a direct link with illiteracy and poverty and ill-health and recognise the relationship between improved literacy and economic growth and progress. Therefore the theme of International Literacy Day 2015 is Literacy and Sustainable Societies.

imageIt is increasingly recognised that in today’s 21st Century literacy means much more than the basics of working with words and numbers. Communication is a central factor of literacy, not only through reading and writing, but also through the ability to listen and speak. Early on it is important to develop critical and visual literacy.

Of course technology now plays a huge role in society and individuals need to be computer literate, able to research information and then learn how to effectively use this. As many teachers will no doubt admit, their students now often know more than the teachers regarding modern technology and the teaching emphasis in this area has shifted to a form of partnership in learning.

Furthermore, computers, tablets and mobile phones are themselves seen as offering ‘fresh opportunities for literacy for all’. *

imageThis is not a hopeless cause and it has been proved that with determination and concerted effort literacy rates can dramatically increase over just twenty years. Hopefully the the hundreds of activities and events across the globe today can move more people towards improved literacy.

Personally I cannot imagine a world where I could not read or write – a lifeline of joy, education, entertainment, knowledge. Let’s hope that many more can soon drink from this fount of enlightenment.

* UNESCO Director-General


  1. Peter R

    Yes, literacy should be everyone’s human right. It’s a much-used phrase, but very true: “You have to learn to read so you can read to learn”. Surprisingly, I couldn’t see any reference to World Literacy Day in the London “Times”. Perhaps that says something about journalists, although I’m not sure what.

    1. I’m surprised there wasn’t anything in the paper. Not so much the journalists fault I think rather the editorial team deciding what is news-worthy. Sad fact that this didn’t qualify. Thanks for commenting.

  2. For this very reason, I’ve often wished I’d contribute my time to the Gutenberg Library project–where they record public domain literature to the internet for all to enjoy. I have yet to find the time. I’m starting to wonder if it’s an excuse…

    1. It is a worhty project Jacqui and I have worked on/off on Gutenberg library for many years and thoroughly enjoyed the variety of texts I’ve proofread and learnt so much along the way. So true though that there never seems to be enough time for everything you want to do in the day – so much better than being bored though! :-))

  3. Marion

    Wish you a very happy birthday Annika. Loved reading this. So much I learnt! We really are lucky to be able to read and write. Stor kram.

    1. Thank you Marion for the birthday wishes. As usual I have been thoroughly spoilt and am managing to drag it out over two days. 😀 so glad you enjoyed the post, it it s subject I feel very strongly about and wanted to share it in my blog. Lovely to hear from you,

  4. Mirja

    I saw a post yesterday telling it is your birthday today.
    What a wonderful present you have given us all with this post celebrating the International Literacy Day. Your post is so vivid and I love to have learnt so much about literacy in the
    I want to quote you “Inalienable human right – literacy” and “Let many more drink from the fount of enlightenment”. Beautiful statements.
    Have a wonderful birthday Annika

    1. Thank your Mirja, I’m having a wonderful extended birthday, I an glad you found the post vivid, it was one of the more difficult ones as I had so many facts and also felt so strongly emotional on the subject. I wanted to keep it non-political but at the same time highlight a very serious issue whilst at the same time keeping positive for the future.

    1. Indeed a day to celebrate. Libraries have been a lifeline for so many people and as a prolific reader from young I quickly became well acquainted with the ones near home. Many are being shut down alas through lack of funding, although lots too remaining open on a volunteer basis – still a loss to lose so many highly qualified people working there. I think these postbox style ‘libraries’, featured in the photo, are becoming popular in rural communities. A very nifty idea.

  5. Mike

    So true. We don’t realise sometimes how lucky we are. We must remember that the ability to read and right is a gift we should not squander – and books should always be treated with respect.

    Love both the pictures by the way.


    1. Reading and writing is all too easily to taken for granted so it is worth spending a few moments thought for those without these skills; it must be such a handicap in life. Glad you liked the photos, the first one is of my desk and bookcase (old-style) which I received as joint Christmas and birthday present when very young. It is still one of my most treasured pieces of furniture.

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