Recognized every year on September 8, International Literacy Day is an opportunity to celebrate literacy achievement for individuals, communities, and societies worldwide and to examine areas where progress is still needed. The calendar day first became official in 1966 when the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization created it as a catalyst for more literate societies.
Today, we recognize the importance of increasing literacy worldwide. With 773 million adults and young people lacking basic literacy skills and 617 million children and adolescents not meeting the minimum reading proficiency levels, there has never been more urgency to move policies for making education affordable and accessible for all into action. Below we are looking at literary statistics for the United States and around the world to further the discussion on the importance of literacy.
1. In America, children’s love of reading often lessens as they get older.
In a 2009 case study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education, 53 percent of 4th graders admitted to reading recreationally “almost every day.” On the other hand only 20 percent of 8th graders could say the same. This means that by the time children have reached their pre-teen years, the reading rate has declined by more than half. Before youth even reach high school, the love of recreational reading has lessened dramatically.
2. Illiteracy rates and health care costs are directly connected.
If people cannot read, they also cannot work and participate in and contribute to society in a meaningful way. If reading rates are down, unemployment rates will increase and healthcare costs will follow. In the United States alone, reports show that the rate of low literacy directly costs the healthcare industry more than $70 million each year.
3. Literacy rates in the northern region of the United States are higher than those of southern states.
In 2013, Washington, D.C. was ranked the most literate American city for the third year in a row, with Seattle and Minneapolis close behind. Moreover, the 10 states with the highest literacy rates are: New Hampshire, Minnesota, North Dakota, Vermont, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Maine, Iowa, and Missouri. All of these states are located in the Midwest, the Northeast, or the Pacific Northwest.
4. The majority of the world’s illiterate population are women and girls.
Many of the gender equality initiatives around the world focus on education. This is not surprising when two-thirds of the world’s 774 million illiterate adults are women. This statistic has remained stagnant for the past 20 years. Moreover, among the world’s 123 million illiterate youth, 76 million are girls.
5. Literacy is a driver of the economy and reduces poverty rates.
It has historically been proven that the more educated a society is, the more prosperous the society will become. Education and economic prosperity are connected. Low literacy rates equate to low skill rates, which decreases the productivity of a society and people’s ability to contribute to their communities.
What are some ways that that we can increase literacy and reading rates in our communities? Share your tricks with us @meetcopper so we can share them with our Copper Community.