World Literacy Continues to be a Major Focus
As students in most industrialized nations are returning to school, a statistic from the World Literacy Foundation serves as a stark reminder that an estimated 120 million children globally do not have access to education, either through geographical barriers, political circumstances, poverty, or war. Without increased educational opportunities, those children will grow up to add to the current standing of approximately 775 million illiterate adults worldwide, of which around two-thirds are women.
It should come as no surprise that the countries with the lowest adult literacy rates are also some of the same countries with the highest amount of the population living in poverty, the highest infant mortality rates, and long histories of fighting and aggression, both internal and external. Sadly, according to the CIA World Factbook, nearly three-fourths of the illiterate population of the world is found in only ten countries.
Several key global organizations are working to bring greater access to and appreciation for education to many of these areas. Along with the World Literacy Foundation, groups like Worldreader and UNICEF have long-standing reputations for working to bring increased literacy and learning to underserved areas in an effort to enact change in a variety of issues.
Some of the agencies who are working to address illiteracy are built on a more grassroots approach, such as programs built to serve local populations of low-ability readers. Scholastic, Inc., the largest children’s book publisher in the world, has sparked the start of its program, “Read Every Day, Lead a Better Life,” in order to provide materials and books that help program leaders in individual communities foster an interest in reading. Others like Future Library in Greece, non-profit organization, is finding a way to help address literacy as a social and economic issue by adopting more digital services and making it available in libraries across the country.
While many of these programs are built with young learners in mind, a growing number of opportunities are springing up around the world that target adult non-readers, especially women in areas where female education is often banned by law or religious practice.
It is far too easy to think of illiteracy as a problem reserved for impoverished or third world countries, but an equal number of programs are at work in industrialized countries like the US to address adult illiteracy, a problem which would apply to some three million American citizens, according to the CIA World Factbook.
Digital publishing and e-reading technology stand to play an important role in access to educational materials that are currently hard to come by. Whether geographical access is the issue, in which case learners physically cannot attend school, or whether political pressure prevents readers from accessing typical libraries or bookstores, digital reading can provide content to learners who are eager to learn to read.