Fifty Anniversary of International Literacy Day - September 8, 2016
"The world has changed since 1966 – but our determination to provide every woman and man with the skills, capacities and opportunities to become everything they wish, in dignity and respect, remains as firm as ever. Literacy is a foundation to build a more sustainable future for all." UNESCO Director-General
It was 50 years ago that September 8 was first recognized as International Literacy Day as proclaimed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Its purpose is to raise awareness about the power of literacy to transform lives of individuals and to empower communities and societies by increasing literacy rates around the world. The celebration has expanded to now involve governments, private and public sector organizations, experts, teachers, and people of all backgrounds.
The focus this year is on innovation, with the theme of "Reading the Past, Writing the Future." Also, this year marks the beginning of the 2030 Education Agenda, which has as one of its goals to achieve "inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all." Its aim is to achieve literacy and numeracy for all youth and for most adults by 2030.
As part of the celebration, a two-day conference will be held in Paris on September 8 and 9. Included will be the launching of the Global Alliance for Literacy (GAL), an initiative that encourages all stakeholders to work together "to promote literacy as a foundation for lifelong learning."
UNESCO continues to make great strides, and yet 775 million adults remain minimally literate. One in five adults are illiterate; two-thirds of whom are women. Over 60 million children experience obstacles to learning that impede their ability to gain literacy skills.
According to UNESCO, regions plagued by the lowest literacy rates are South and West Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, the Arab States. Statistics show that conditions of poverty and prejudice against women remain powerful contributors to illiteracy.
The Mid-Atlantic Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, a regional business organization with a major interest in workforce development, recognizes the importance of English literacy in the development of a competent and highly productive workforce and works towards a goal of reducing illiteracy in its area of service. Its signature literacy program, LEER (Latino Educational Empowerment Through Reading) has several components:
- Parent Academy: Teaching parents to read to children and become actively engaged in their children's education;
- Lifelong Reading: Encouraging extracurricular reading among children, youth andf adults;
- Book of the Month project for Chamber members; and,
- LEA (Literacy in English for Adults), which targets primarily, but it is not limited to, adult immigrants.
* * *