Let’s Celebrate International Literacy Day

It is September 8th. Let’s celebrate International Literacy Day. Perhaps you wonder why we should have an international literacy day. Why? Because even though you can read this, there are more than 7 million people in the world who cannot read. Think of it, 16% of the world’s population cannot read or write. And most of the illiterate are women.

Image of the world from space and a stack of colorful books above the phrase: Happy international literacy day

Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light.

Vera Nazarian

Why International Literacy Day?

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) created International Literacy Day in 2000. UNESCO stresses “the most powerful accelerator of sustainable development” is the ability to read and write. 

Since wars begin in the minds of men and women, it is in the minds of men and women that the defences of peace must be constructed.


UNESCO’s founding vision was born in response to a world war that was marked by racist and anti-Semitic violence. Seventy years on and many liberation struggles later, UNESCO’s mandate is as relevant as ever. Cultural diversity is under attack and new forms of intolerance, rejection of scientific facts and threats to freedom of expression challenge peace and human rights. In response, UNESCO’s duty remains to reaffirm the humanist missions of education, science and culture.”

The theme for International Literacy Day 2021 is “Literacy for a human-centered recovery: Narrowing the digital divide.”

Reasons Literacy Is Important

There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.

Jacqueline Kennedy

Brain Health—Using our brains daily to read, write, and work with numbers keeps brain cells healthier. It may reduce your chance to develop a dementia like Alzheimers.

Community—Reading and writing skills increase the contributions a person will or can make to help improve their community.

Communication—Reading and writing helps us understand ourselves and express ourselves better.

Employment—Literacy gives one more opportunity to advance up the social-economic ladder. We can break the cycle of poverty by providing everyone with the gift of literacy.

Personal Dignity and Self-worth—The ability to read and write empowers us.

Understanding—As Jackie Kennedy said, reading enlarges your world. When you read about other people, your worldview expands.

How You Can Celebrate

People don’t realise how a man’s whole life can be changed by one book.

Malcolm X

If you are reading this, you probably live in a predominately literate country. You may wonder how you can celebrate this day. How can you help those unable to read or write?

A few suggestions:

  • Do you know your country’s literacy statistics? Google them. The number of people around you who are functionally illiterate will shock you.
  • If you have the means, donate digital devices to UNESCO or other organizations and support this year’s theme.
  • Donate books to your local elementary school (always check with them for appropriate material first).
  • Give a book to someone. Adults and children will appreciate that you thought of them.
  • Start a little library, or if there’s one nearby, donate to it.
  • Volunteer at your local elementary schools or community organizations to help children and adults improve their reading skills or learn to read. (I did this one year, and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.)
  • Read to someone. (Perhaps at a school, a nursing home, library, or community center. In person or by an online service.)

Celebrate International Literacy Day

Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.

Frederick Douglass

You are a reader. That’s one of your gifts. We often get caught up in the daily stresses and activities of our lives. We forget that there are those who aren’t as gifted, have economic or physical barriers to reading. Please, won’t you take a moment and celebrate International Literacy day? Share your gift. Enlarge and free someone else’s world.

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