If you are reading this, you are using one of your most valuable skills. Literacy, the ability to use reading and writing in real life situations and in personal development, is critical to functioning in society. According to Dr. Sirpa Grierson, state coordinator for the Utah Council of the International Reading Association, “Literacy is power.”
“Begun by the United Nations, International Literacy Day is designed to [raise] world awareness to the need for all people to gain access to an education,” states Grierson. This year, it is being observed on Sept. 8. Not only is literacy significant enough to have its own day, the years 2003-2012 have been declared by the United Nations Literacy Decade.
Even though literacy is such an essential skill, there are many people who have failed to develop it. According to the International Reading Association, over 780 million adults worldwide do not know how to read or write and nearly two thirds of them are women. In addition, between 94 and 115 million children do not have access to education. While changing such a dire statistic may seem overwhelming, a big difference can be made on a local level.
“There are multiple opportunities for helping in the community,” Grierson states. “Libraries and schools offer programs in literacy that allow for volunteer help. ESL programs, for instance, love to have volunteers who will come in and read and speak with individuals.”
Grierson also says that reading to young unwed mothers, the homebound, senior citizens and to residents of care facilities makes a big difference. Those who are ready to commit to regularly helping out can look into Project Read, a local adult literacy initiative.
“Volunteering is a wonderful way to reach out to the community and raise the level of our citizenry,” says Grierson. “Literacy volunteerism is for everyone.”