Today is International Literacy Day. International Literacy Day is an effort of UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and every year it seeks to highlight to the international community the importance of literacy.
I grew up in a culture that rewards education and I was raised in a home environment that supported learning. I can’t imagine a world where I can’t read. I can’t imagine not being able to read a road sign, follow instructions for taking medicine, confidently sign a rental contract, fill out a job application, pick out canned products from a grocery store, get important news by text or handwritten message, vote, learn to drive, research my rights in papers or on the internet, fact check things that other people told me.
What would the world look like if the 757 million adults and 115 million youths who in 2015 still lack basic reading and writing skills, didn’t?
The 2006 Education For All Global Monitering Report shows a clear connection between illiteracy and countries in severe poverty, and between illiteracy and prejudice against women.
The most recent surveys show that while great strides have been made, we have fallen short of the 2015 Education For All goal of reducing adult illiteracy by 50% from 2000. The eAtlas of Literacy on UNESCO’s Institute of Statistics provides some easy to understand interactive graphs, and the September 2015 Adult and Youth Illiteracy Fact Sheet is good clean fun if you’re a data nerd. The TL;DR version is summarized in this info graphic (click to open a new window of the UNESCO PDF):
For a window into how organizations are successfully addressing illiteracy around the world, check out the 2015 UNESCO International Literacy Prizes Winners.