International Day of Literacy


author: elisabeth sahlmueller | contributor

Read, and read, and read / Pixabay

Event celebrates reading and writing

Literacy is a powerful and valuable component of our everyday lives because it opens the door to multiple opportunities in both the present and for the future. Without it, people remain uneducated, powerless and lack the ability to better their quality of life. Unfortunately, we rarely ever pause to reflect about how important it is, or how many individuals are denied access to it. However, International Literacy Day, recognized this past Saturday, September 8  encourages us to consider how we view literacy, not just within our own lives, but also in the lives of others around the world. 
The term literacy refers to the ability to read and write, two essential skills required to advance within society. These skills allow the spread and sharing of ideas, the expansion of knowledge and the opportunity to improve the world. Despite how essential literacy is in our daily lives, it frequently goes unacknowledged, as our access to it is something that many of us, myself included, take for granted. 
I can’t honestly remember a time when reading wasn’t a huge part of my life. Even before I was born, my mom read to me, and I always attribute this to the reason why reading is a favourite pastime of mine, although there seems to be less and less time to read for personal enjoyment. Growing up, I was always absorbed in some book and was constantly exceeding my limit of possible books that could be signed out from both the public and my elementary school libraries. I read basically anything I could get my hands on, whether that was an engaging Nancy Drew mystery, a heart-stringpulling novel by Lurlene McDaniel, or a vivid historical fiction novel. 
For many of us, attending school and learning how to read and write is just part of our daily routine. It is something that we are told we have to do, whether we want to or not. Even though education is something we have a right to in Canada, this is not the case for many people around the world. Despite how essential literacy is, many individuals are denied access to it and are forbidden and prevented from learning how to read and write by the restrictive laws of their country‘s government. 
In most circumstances, it is the girls and women who are denied the opportunity to attend school and obtain an education. This is not only extremely unfair, but it also causes major problems and limits the advancement of that particular country. Individuals who experience this restriction will only become angry and over time, this will likely lead to rebellion, as people will protest their government wanting change. Although people must stand up for their right to access literacy, if people revolt against the government, this situation may soon grow out of control. Additionally, limiting part of the population from learning reduces the country’s potential. If everyone was literate, more ideas could develop and be shared which would benefit and advance the county. 
In 1965, after the World Conference of Ministers of Education and the Eradication of Literacy held in Tehran Iran from September 8-19, the idea developed for International Literacy Day. The first one was held the following year and this past Saturday, September 8 marked the 52nd anniversary. Its original purpose was for governments and different organizations around the world to celebrate literacy, reflect on the challenges that it involves around the world and develop ideas for how to effectively solve and improve these various issues. 
This purpose is still very relevant in 2018. While literacy rates have greatly improved worldwide since 1965, there is still a significant percentage of the population that remains illiterate against their own choice, but because of the restrictive control of their country’s government. It is extremely sad that although the world has become so advanced technologically, people are still prevented from becoming literate and obtaining essential life skills. 
While I could not imagine my life without having the ability to read and write, I do know that it would not be as good. I am extremely lucky to live in a country where I have unlimited opportunities because I had the right to attend school and obtain an education. I sincerely hope that one day the goal of everyone having the right to become literate will be a reality. Education should be a right for everyone, not just a privilege for males, the elite and the wealthy members of society.  Multiple heads are always better than one, so imagine how much better the world would be if everyone was literate.

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