Each year on September 8th, UNESCO invites us to celebrate International Literacy Day. The focus for this year is improving our literacy skills in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. With many schools in the UK opening for the first time in nearly six months, this celebration is all about getting back on track with our reading and writing.
You might be surprised to learn that around one in five children in England cannot read well by the age of 11 – and this figure isn’t much higher in 15 year olds. From a global perspective, British adults aren’t even in the top 10 for literacy rates worldwide. Clearly, there was a lot of work to do to boost literacy even before Covid-19 hit. Now, there are fears that months of school closures have caused further damage to young people’s reading and writing skills.
Here’s the thing: we know that your literacy level has a direct impact on the kind of life you will have as an adult. For a start, you’re more likely to be successful as an adult if you have a good level of literacy. You’re also less likely to suffer from mental health problems and feelings of loneliness. One study has even shown that people with good literacy levels live longer than those who don’t. So, developing your literacy skills is something that should be high on your list of priorities.
International Literacy Day is the perfect excuse to brush up on your reading and writing. Here are some ways that you can celebrate this day and support others to do the same:
Use Your Literacy Skills To Fight Injustice: Head to the Amnesty International website, where you can take action on some of the biggest human rights issues in the UK by sending an email or letter, or signing a petition. Encourage others to do the same.
Host A Sponsored Read: Set a reading goal for International Literacy Day, get your friends and family to sponsor you and donate the money to your favourite charity.
Start a Little Free Library: With support from this organisation, you can start your own community library from the comfort of home, using your own books or books donated by friends and family. Spread the word on social media so you can boost other people’s literacy, too.
Promote Literacy Online: If some of these ideas are a bit ambitious for you, do some research on the importance of good literacy (using this article as a starting point) and spend International Literacy Day sharing these facts on your social media pages. After all, raising awareness of literacy (and why we all need it) is exactly what this day is about.
Kaye Jones is a teacher and freelance writer, with a passion for history and education.