Friday, September 8, 2023

International Literacy Day!

Today is International Literacy Day, with this year's theme being "Promoting literacy for a world in transition: Building the foundation for sustainable and peaceful societies."

ILD2023 will be an opportunity to join efforts to accelerate progress towards the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4) on education and lifelong learning and to reflect on the role of literacy in building more inclusive, peaceful, just, and sustainable societies. In doing so, it will embrace the reciprocal relations between literacy and other areas of development: Literacy is central to the creation of such societies, while progress in other areas of development contributes to generating interest and motivation of people to acquire, use, and further develop their literacy and numeracy skills.

My mother was a teacher for 37 years in the Chicago Public Schools. Her philosophy was that if a kid could read, he could learn just about anything. She taught fourth grade, and would make sure that, by the end of the year, as many kids in her class as possible were reading at a fourth-grade reading level or above.

When I was in college, Mom overhead me talking on the phone with a friend of mine. We had mentioned a friend of ours in the conversation, and when I got off the phone, she said that she thought she had taught the friend we were talking about, and asked me to ask him if he had been in her class.

The next time, I talked to him, I asked him if he had attended Mom's school. He smiled and said, "that is your mom!" He then told me a story about how, when he got into fourth grade, he couldn't read at an appropriate level, so Mom told him that he was to read a book a week and turn in a book report every Monday morning. He said that, by the end of the year, he could read at a higher grade level than fourth grade. By the way, he was graduating from the university that June and would be continuing on to medical school.

We take reading for granted sometimes. I've been able to read since I was about three, and so could my brothers. It's hard for me to envision anyone my age (67) not being able to read. Unfortuntely, adults not being able to read is more common than you would think. When we were in Chicago, Mary volunteered with an organization called Literacy Volunteers of America, now called ProLiteracy. She worked with several adults who had managed to graduate from school without being able to read. They weren't dyslexic (which is an entirely different issue), they just were passed along by the school system. They were doomed to work in unskilled, low-paying jobs as a result.

In today's world, the ability to read, write, and do simple math is essential for survival. UNESCO thinks that those abilities are fundamental to building sustainable and peaceful societies, and thus a sustainable and peaceful world, and I can't argue with that.

Take time to appreciate the gift that you have been given. Share it with your children and grandchildren, your nieces and nephews. Help them to enjoy the worlds that reading opens to them. If you have the time and inclination, volunteer to help a non-reading adult to learn this critical skill.

Happy International Literacy Day!