International Literacy Day, celebrated on September 8, was first established by UNESCO in 1966. Forty-seven years later, the social issue of illiteracy still affects over 775 million people in the world. One in five adults has difficulty reading. This lack of a basic education prevents individuals, families, and communities from rising out of poverty.
Room to Read, a non-profit dedicated to improving literacy in the developing world, has become a global, award-winning organization. However, its beginning is inspiring for anyone desiring to tackle a problem in their community. Starting in 2000 in Nepal, the organization’s founder, John Wood, began donating books to rural communities. From there, Wood’s activities grew into building school libraries, training teachers in literacy education, and promoting secondary education for girls. Its focus remains on bringing literacy to impoverished children, but also to promote and spread gender equality. Today, the organization works in 10 countries and has benefited more than 7.8 million children.
Although the organization largely focused on children, it has effects in communities as a whole. When one mother in Zambia heard her son reading with impressive accuracy, she was inspired to use the tools from Room to Read that had worked so well for her son and adapt them for an adult literacy class. On her own initiative, the woman now teaches 10 women in her community. Education is contagious!
Room to Read believes that if every child received a basic education, 171 million people would be lifted out of poverty. The organization hopes to reach 10 million children by 2015. To help them reach this goal, visit Room to Read to read about the many projects they are tackling in communities across Africa and Asia. Find one that excites you and sponsor it! It could be building a school library in India or publishing a children’s book in Vietnam. Celebrate International Literacy Day by spreading the joy of reading!