Depending on where you live, you may take your ability to read for granted. In the United States, 14 percent of adults cannot read at a basic level. This includes 19 percent of high school graduates. It seems like a small percentage until you realize this means there are 32 million illiterate adults in the United States. Worldwide, there are 775 million people who are illiterate. For a variety of reasons, 66 percent of them are women. The literacy rates are lower in poorer countries with smaller governments. South Sudan has the worst illiteracy rate at 73 percent. However, many of these countries are taking steps to increase their literacy rates. Most countries and governments realize how essential literacy is to economic and social success in an increasingly globalized world. Here are just some of the ways countries are attempting to combat adult illiteracy and encourage more reading in the world today.
Increased access to elementary education
In many nations around the world, young children do not have access to elementary education. It is either not provided by the state, or the student is not able to take advantage of it due to the necessity to work. It is also possible that they lack transportation. Many different countries have launched programs to ensure better access to elementary education and transportation among their poor and rural populations. The benefits to this are obvious, since the best way to ensure an adult is not illiterate is to teach literacy while they are a child. This means that funds and infrastructure must be improved in order to remove roadblocks to this kind of early education.
Local reading initiatives
Ras al-Khaimah is one of the seven emirates in the United Arab Emirates. Recently, Sheik Saud bin Saqr al Qasimi launched a reading initiative sponsored by the police and local government. The goal of the initiative is to encourage reading and cultural advancement across the entire community with the encouragement of the police department. People were encouraged to read books about other cultures and peoples. This not only encourages literacy, but also encourages people to broaden their education and minds. These types of initiatives are becoming more common in many countries.
Joining international efforts
UNESCO’s Dakar location supports the Education for All Acceleration Initiative. This initiative is a group joined by several African nations to combat adult illiteracy. The national governments in Niger and Senegal have submitted plans to eradicate illiteracy by 2023. Africa is the only continent where more than half of adults cannot help their children with their homework due to illiteracy. Non-formal education is the key to improving literacy among adults who in many cases are not able to attend full time education. There are now several other nations that have joined the initiative. The initiative and UNESCO provide guidelines and support to assist these nations in developing education infrastructure and using finances effectively. The nations are encouraged to make a big push to educate as many of their adults as possible by setting goals for various years.
Working with non-profits
The India Literacy Project is a volunteer-based non-profit organization that works with the Indian government. Their goal is no less than a 100 percent literacy rate in the world’s most populous country. The current adult literacy rate in India is 74 percent. The Indian Literacy Project works in over 1,200 villages and has benefited over 300,000 people. They are certainly not the only group working on literacy, but are a good example of how a volunteer organization can make a difference alongside of the national government.
Each of these methods contributes to an overall strategy of combatting illiteracy and improving the lives of the people in their nations. In future it will be interesting to see how these statistics change on a global scale.
Eileen O’Shanassy is a freelance writer and blogger based out of Flagstaff, AZ. She writes on a variety of topics and loves to research and write. She enjoys baking, biking, and kayaking. Check out her Twitter @eileenoshanassy.