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September 6, 2018

International Literacy Day 2018: Find your role in creating a literate nation

This year’s International Literacy Day theme put forth by UNESCO is ‘literacy and skills development’. The theme focuses on the connection between literacy and lifelong skills required for employment, careers, and livelihoods.

The ability to read and write, is not just a useful skill to have. Literacy is a necessity in today’s modern society to complete basic daily tasks and gain steady employment to provide for a family and contribute to society.

In the early years of development, literacy skills overlap with other developmental benchmarks and academic subjects. For example, if a student isn’t able to read at an appropriate level, then she’ll struggle to learn subjects related to science or complete basic word problems in math. Which is why it’s so valuable to build literacy skills early on.

When kids fall behind in early grades, it becomes increasingly challenging to catch up later on. The Annie E. Casey Foundation reports that students in the US who can’t read at grade level by fourth grade are four times more likely to leave high school without a diploma.

According to UNESCO Institute for Statistics, the world is home to at least 750 million adults who lack basic literacy skills and six out of ten children and adolescents (617 million) globally are not achieving minimum proficiency levels in reading and mathematics. In the US, nearly nine million low-income kindergarten through fifth grade students are reading below proficient levels.

These staggering numbers noted above call for an all-hands-on-deck approach to tackling the literacy crisis in the US and on a global scale. If you can read, then you can spread your fortune and help create a literate society. Here are six roles you can play in helping create lifelong opportunity for children through literacy.

Stay informed about global and national literacy trends

A good first step on your path toward becoming a literacy advocate is to stay informed. Follow newsletters and social media channels of organizations and campaigns like #ProjectLiteracy that are working to eradicate illiteracy. Then, share what you learn with others in your network.

Bring attention to the cause

Once you’ve become informed about the literacy crisis, the next step is to use your networks to build awareness about illiteracy. This action will drive attention to the causes that are working to bring literacy education to those most in need. Your voice is a valuable resource and useful way to contribute. Think about the many circles you are connected to—friends, family, online communities, your workplace—and consider how you can best utilize those networks to make a positive impact.

Volunteer as a tutor

Volunteering as a tutor is one of the most direct ways to make an impact on a students’ literacy development. Spending as little as one hour each week tutoring students can put them on a path toward reading proficiency. A path that will ultimately increase access to higher education and career advancement later in life.

Volunteer at literacy events

If you aren’t able to volunteer on a consistent basis, then single-day volunteer events may be right for you. Most NGOs and nonprofit literacy organizations have a constant need for short-term voluntary support to keep programs running smoothly.

Donate your talents

Skills-based volunteering (SBV) is a hot trend in corporate social responsibility. It connects professionals with the causes they care about to make an impact by contributing their unique talents. Some companies whose employees participate in regular volunteering activities report they see an increase in productivity and morale at work.

SBV can take many forms: Join a board, manage social media, introduce a new system, the list goes on and on. Any area where you excel and can lend your structured support or the support of your business could strengthen a literacy nonprofit. Helping them do their work better and more efficiently.

Make a financial contribution to literacy programs

Then there’s donating. The easiest and quickest way to lend your support to the cause is to make regular financial contributions to literacy organizations that are already doing great work. Most nonprofits that provide literacy services to kids and adults depend on financial contributions from individual donors to continue and expand their impact. There are lots of ways to donate, too. Consider making small recurring (monthly) donations, starting a fundraiser on behalf of an organization, purchasing tickets to an event, or simply making a one-time gift.

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