International Literacy Day

International Literacy Day
Written by Natalie Gilbert

Fifty years ago, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated September 8th as International Literacy Day. The purpose was to “….actively mobilize the international community and to promote literacy as an instrument to empower individuals, communities and societies”. It is estimated that 780 million adults, of which two-thirds are women, do not know how to read or write. Additionally, between 94 and 115 million children do not have access to education.

This year’s theme, “Reading the Past, Writing the Future”, celebrates the last five decades of efforts to boost global literacy rates, while addressing present challenges and looking to innovative solutions to further increase literacy.

Literacy is a cornerstone in any language program, so there are many ways to incorporate this event into your English Language Arts (ELA) classroom.

  1. Pair up older grades with a younger class in your school to develop a reading buddy program.
  2. Create a virtual pen pal program to develop students’ letter writing skills and to encourage their understanding of different cultures, languages, and geographical settings. One way to facilitate this would be to use the professional learning network (PLN) of educators that exists on Twitter to reach out and see if there is a class around the world that would like pair up to participate in this activity.
  3. If the above activity isn’t feasible, students could engage in an in-class letter writing activity that explores different ideas and issues from a selected text.
  4. Develop students’ awareness of the analytical strategies they use when reading multiple literacies through this cyberspace activity.
  5. Students can also strengthen their analytical strategies for comprehending text through watching digital lessons like the one below from Learning Bird. This is just one example of a new group of lessons we’ve added to the platform to enhance students’ literacy skills.  

Since International Literacy Day takes a broad look at literacy rates from a global perspective, this event also provides a cross-curricular opportunity for social studies and humanities classrooms.

In this free activity kit created by the International Literacy Association, you can broaden your students’ worldview by teaching them about the culture and landscape of Jamaica, a small, vibrant island in the Caribbean. You can also download their steps to advance literacy kit, which provides tangible actions to raise awareness about education.

You can also encourage your students to conduct independent research about different countries and their cultures and then present this information to the class. A great jump-off point for this activity could be viewing this infographic about world literacy rates.

Participate in the global conversation about International Literacy Day, and share what your class is doing, by using the hashtags #LiteracyDay and #50ILD on Twitter.

About the author

Natalie Gilbert

Natalie has spent the last five years working in both traditional and experiential education settings in Haiti, India, and South Korea. Her background is in journalism and education, and she is currently pursuing her M.A. in Educational Technology. She enjoys running, exploring new neighborhoods, and cooking.

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