International Literacy Day highlights the need in the 21st century
Read anything today? Besides this, that is? How about your kids? Have they read today?
In the U.S. most of us are so accustomed to reading that literacy rates rarely get a second thought, not after elementary school anyway. But out of the seven billion people in the world, almost one billion cannot read or write at all. While that’s actually an improvement from past counts, it’s still a lot of people who cannot read a newspaper, a book, or even a bill. Part of the reason is that as many as 100 million kids worldwide don’t have access to any form of education.
That’s a heartbreaking statistic.
Literacy is an essential skill in modern society and a necessary ingredient for an informed and empowered citizenry. That’s why in 2003 the United Nations launched a ten-year effort, the International Literacy Decade, and named September 8 as International Literacy Day.
It’s hard to pin down the figure for literacy in the U.S. because there are different standards and different levels of literacy. Some studies put the number of illiterate U.S. adults around five percent. (This does not include adults who are literate in a language other than English.) Which tells us perhaps literacy isn’t the settled concern we like to think it is.
Something else that reinforces the value of literacy skills in today’s world—skills that include more than reading and writing—are the new Common Core State Standards. The standards developed for English language arts put a more comprehensive emphasis on literacy development in the digital age. Which is to say, success in the 21st century economy will require the ability to read a wide range of materials, interpret them, and apply knowledge and information in a variety of ways.
In other posts we’ve talked about the importance of reading to your kids. But here’s another reminder: it’s International Literacy Day, a good day to stop taking literacy for granted and do something about it. Read!