International Literacy Day

By Robyn Cunningham, Access Services Librarian

International Literacy Day took place this past Thursday, and you may be slightly familiar with it if you stopped by the library and checked out our display for the occasion. But some of you may be wondering – what is it?

International Literacy Day, or ILD, is a worldwide celebration to highlight the importance of literacy for everyone. The holiday was started in 1967 by UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Their website states the following on ILD:

“Since 1967, International Literacy Day (ILD) celebrations have taken place annually around the world to remind the public of the importance of literacy as a matter of dignity and human rights, and to advance the literacy agenda towards a more literate and sustainable society. 

“Despite progress made, literacy challenges persist with at least 771 million young people and adults lacking basic literacy skills today.”

These 771 million people that their quote references includes women accounting for two-thirds of this large amount. Lower-income families are also more at risk for illiteracy, and the COVID-19 pandemic has made matters worse. Millions of children were forced to leave their physical classrooms and switch to online learning. Not all families have access to a computer, or even the internet, which prohibits children from learning.

UNESCO has several goals that they hope to achieve in the coming years: 

• Increase awareness of diverse literacy learning spaces centered on needs of youth and adults based on new knowledge and evidence related to effective policies, systems, governance, programmes, teaching and learning practice, and monitoring of learning spaces.

• Leverage the existing progress and transformation in the development of literacy learning spaces while setting the stage for lifelong learning.

• Adapt the existing and the upcoming transformation in the literacy learning spaces to ensure quality, equitable, and inclusive education for all.

• Connect the learning pathways between informal, non-formal and formal education systems and account for the literacy learning outcomes taking place in the unconventional spaces.

Learn more about what was discussed during their annual conference here:

Literacy is a human right, a right that should not be hindered by gender or income. Kofi Annan, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, once said:

“Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a tool for daily life in modern society. It is a bulwark against poverty, and a building block of development, an essential complement to investments in roads, dams, clinics and factories. Literacy is a platform for democratization, and a vehicle for the promotion of cultural and national identity. Especially for girls and women, it is an agent of family health and nutrition. For everyone, everywhere, literacy is, along with education in general, a basic human right. Literacy is, finally, the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman and child can realize his or her full potential.”

You can learn more about ILD and UNESCO on their website:

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