Do you remember the first book you read all by yourself?

For me it was “Colour My World” a book about a cat pointing out the different things around him and identifying the colour. Even though it was a simple book with pretty much zero plot, I remember feeling full of pride that I had finally read something on my own.

I didn’t know it at the time, but being literate would open up the world to me. From the little things, like being able to immerse myself in the fictional worlds of books, to the big stuff, like being able to manage my finances and live an independent life. Without literacy, these things would be much more difficult.

September 8th is World Literacy Day and that means a celebration of all the amazing things that literacy can bring people and their communities.  

When you live in a country where literacy is taken for granted, it’s easy to forget how important it is, but around the world there are still 757 million adults and 115 million youth who lack basic reading and writing skills. Something that you don’t think twice about, like being able to read the dosage on a bottle of medicine could pose serious risk to someone who struggles with reading.

Here are some mind blowing statistics about how literacy changes lives:

Literacy is a right: it’s so important that the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes the right to an education.

Literacy destroys poverty: 171 million people would be lifted out of poverty if all students in low income countries left school with basic reading and writing skills.

One extra year of schooling can increase an individual's earnings by 10%, for women it can increase earnings by as much as 20%.

The ability to read is about more than increasing income, it improves health too: A mother who is literate is 23% more likely to have a skilled attendant with her while giving birth.

Each extra year of schooling that a woman attends decreases the probability of infant mortality by 5% - 10%.

Literacy can even feed people: Investing in girls education in Sub-Saharan Africa could increase crop yield in the region by 25%.

Beyond the impact that literacy has on individuals, high literacy rates lower the risk of war, increase political participation and positively impact economies. 

Not bad for a process that often starts with phrases like “The cat says ‘meow.’”

So today, take a moment to appreciate all the ways that literacy enriches your life and opens up opportunities.

I’ll help you with the first one: you would not have been able to read this awesome article.

Jokes aside, there are millions of people whose lives are limited simply because they are unable to read. We’re making amazing progress increasing literacy rates globally, but wars, diseases and natural disasters can prevent children from attending school.

TAKE ACTION NOW to ask Commissioner Mimica to prioritize aid for the most vulnerable countries and help ensure that one day everyone will have access to the amazing power of literacy.


Defeat Poverty

Celebrating World Literacy Day

By Odette Hutchings