Every year since 1967, September 8 has marked a very special and prominent day to literacy organizations, supporters, and learners around the world.
International Literacy Day, which takes place every year to promote worldwide literacy, is organized by United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organizations (UNESCO). UNESCO estimates that nearly 750 million people—one-fifth of the world’s adult population—do not know how to read or write. Additionally, 264 million out-of-school children still lack basic literacy skills.
Globally, literacy rates are have risen 2.3 percent in the past 10 years and 10.6 percent in the past 20 years. While women still account for 64 percent of all low-literate adults, they have made significant gains over time. Since 1985, the female adult literacy rate has risen 15 percent, which is about double the growth of the male literacy rate.
The regions of South and West Asia are home to more than one-half of the global low-literate population (51.8 percent), while sub-Saharan Africa represents 21.4 percent.
More than 36 million American adults struggle to read, write, do math, and use technology above a third-grade level. The Program for the International Assessment of Adult Literacy (PIAAC) examined the United States and 23 other industrialized countries and found:
- The average U.S. literacy score was below the international average—ranking 16th out of 24 participating countries.
- Only 12 percent of adults in the U.S. performed at the highest proficiency level on the literacy scale.\
- Only 9 percent of adults in the U.S. performed at the highest proficiency level on the numeracy scale.
- Only 6 percent of adults in the U.S., and 8 percent of adults under 35 in the U.S., performed at the highest proficiency level on the problem-solving/technology scale.
How ProLiteracy is Celebrating International Literacy Day
This year, International Literacy Day highlights the challenges and opportunities in promoting literacy in the digital world. We aim to continue to make progress promoting basic adult education in our evolving digital world. But, we still have a long way to go to reach those 750 million low-literate adults worldwide.
This year, we are celebrating International Literacy Day by honoring our past, while looking toward our future. ProLiteracy’s founders Dr. Frank Laubach and Ruth Colvin, as well as Dr. Robert Laubach, founder of New Readers Press, all have deep roots in teaching literacy skills and working side by side with learners worldwide. Looking at the digital age, ProLiteracy recently launched the Robert S. Laubach Publishing & Innovation Fund to bring low-level, high-quality digital content to learners and teachers around the world.
The fund’s first project is to translate the best-selling Laubach Way to Reading into Arabic for distribution in all 22 Arabic-speaking countries. We will also work on digitizing approximately 50 basic literacy primers in native and tribal languages to make them available for free on mobile technology.
If you would like more information on the fund, visit the Dr. Robert S. Laubach Publishing & Innovation Fund page on our website.
The ProLiteracy team is dedicated to continuing its hard work toward achieving Goal #4 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”