Who declared International Literacy Day and why?
International Literacy Day, sometimes called World Literacy Day, is an international observance and is celebrated every year on 8 September. International Literacy Day was established during the World Conference of Ministers of Education in Iran’s capital Tehran in 1965. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) proclaimed this day as International Literacy Day in 1966. The intention was to remind people all over the world that the ability to read and write is a human right and a matter of dignity. The first International Literacy Day was celebrated in 1967.
What is the importance of literacy?
Although literacy skills are seen as a human right, there are still millions of illiterate people or persons with low literacy skills worldwide. Higher literacy rates are associated with healthier populations, less crime, greater economic growth, and higher employment rates. Being literate is a foundational skill essential to acquiring advanced skills. These, in turn, relate to higher wages and more employment across labour markets.
Lacking basic reading and writing skills is an immense disadvantage. Literacy not only enriches an individual’s life, but it generates prospects for people to develop skills that will help them provide for themselves, their families, and their communities.
What is the aim of celebrating International Literacy Day?
The day is celebrated to advance literacy that enables human beings to create a more cultured, literate, and sustainable society. Even in modern society, there is the need to raise awareness about illiteracy, and as such the need for basic education and literacy skills is promoted. International Literacy Day aims to remind local communities – where literacy begins – one person at a time, that literacy is an essential factor in the building of a nation. It helps people to think independently and empowers them. Celebrating International Literacy Day aims to highlight the necessary requirements to help build more literate societies around the world.
Practical activities in celebration of International Literacy Day include the donation of books to local classrooms, gifting a book to someone, or starting a community lending library. The Reading Day team from the Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, University of Pretoria, in collaboration with the Literacy Association of South Africa (Litasa), the Gauteng Department of Education, and the World Literacy Foundation did all this and initiated reading days at schools as well. The vision is to help grow a love of reading and to enhance the literacy skills of learners by engaging in fun educational literacy activities. Students from the Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology read stories with each class and afterwards did educational activities with the learners based on the stories read. The team donated books to the two schools that were visited. The donated books were sponsored by Book Dash, the National Reading Coalition, and the Faculty of Humanities at UP as part of their literacy drive Reading Matters. The transport to the schools was sponsored by Litasa, the World Literacy Foundation, and Sun Books. The team is excited to report that the two schools decided to dedicate each Friday to reading by hosting a weekly mini-reading day.
The theme for International Literacy Day this year was Transforming Literacy Learning Spaces. The Reading Day team optimised the opportunity to literally transform literacy learning spaces by donating books for the reading rooms of the two schools. The team also focused on the fact that literacy learning can take place anywhere where a child and words are together. As such, some classes sat outside while listening to the stories read and others sat in smaller groups away from their desks. All activities focused on literacy being fun and making learners aware that reading is not or should not be limited to the classroom and academic tasks.
Focusing on the theme of transforming literacy learning spaces, the slogan Dare to Dream in the reading room of Mmabana Primary School caught my eye.
I would like to believe that our team, with the support of our sponsors, is supporting the learners of all the schools we visit to dream about the magic to be found between the pages of a book, literacy success, academic progress, and a prosperous life.
Written by Dr Mia le Roux