INTERNATIONAL LITERACY ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT
Note from the Editor: We asked the International Literacy Association president Bernadette Dwyer, who hails from Ireland to share with us how she plans to address the international aspect of the International Literacy Association. She shared with us ILA's new Children's Rights to Read campaign. Thank you, Bernadette, for your contribution to our blog!
Each year, International Literacy Day (ILD) on September 8 serves as a reminder to mark our achievements and reflect on the challenges that lie ahead in our pursuit of literacy for all.
Since the first ILD in 1966, we’ve seen substantial progress. Literacy rates, across the globe, continue to rise from one generation to the next. In 2016, 91% of 15–24-year-olds were reported to have basic literacy skills, compared with 78% 50 years prior. Forty-three countries have made major strides toward gender parity.
But international surveys tell us that’s not enough. There remain today 750 million adults, two thirds of them female, who can’t read this sentence. A whopping 264 million children and youths are not enrolled in school. Two thirds of students who can’t read proficiently by the end of fourth grade will struggle in their lives to attain employment.
These numbers are a staggering reminder that the fight against low levels of literacy is ongoing, and we need a multipronged, collaborative approach to combat this crisis.
Which is why, this ILD, we’re celebrating another milestone: the launch of the International Literacy Association (ILA) Children’s Rights to Read initiative—the first part of a yearlong campaign focused on ensuring that all young people, regardless of geographic location, socioeconomic status, and circumstance, are granted not only the rights to read but also the right to literacy.
In 2018, the ILA Board of Directors convened a task force charged with reviewing existing literature pertaining to a child’s rights to read with the goal of developing a worldwide campaign to ensure that every child receives these fundamental rights. Composed of literacy educators, researchers, and advocates, the task force of ILA members from Australia, Japan, Russia, Ireland and USA reflected the diverse voices we hope to reach. Together, we came up with a list of 10 rights, of equal importance, that ILA believes are essential for individuals to reach full personal, social, and educational potential.
These rights—such as the right to read for pleasure, the right to extended time set aside for reading, the right to read texts that mirror cultures, languages and experiences, the right to share and collaborate both locally and globally—ensure learning environments that unleash the transformative power of reading.
To be a literacy educator is to be an advocate. Literacy permeates all areas of life, fundamentally shaping how we learn, work, and socialize. The skills we impart to students are essential to informed decision making, personal empowerment, and community engagement. They enable individuals, especially those from underserved communities, to overcome barriers to living fulfilling and successful lives.
However, the benefits of literacy ensue only when a strong framework is in place. Through this campaign, we seek to partner with other educators, policymakers, and literacy advocates devoted to advancing these 10 rights. We won’t stop until they’re embedded in the ethos of our curriculum, pedagogy, and policy.
The world has changed since 1966, but our dedication to our mission of literacy for all is unwavering. In the coming months, we’ll be developing and distributing resources to advance adoption of the Rights in schools and communities across the globe. Delivering on this commitment will require support from educators like you. By uniting our efforts, we can help position and prioritize literacy as a human rights issue.
I encourage you to download the Children’s Rights to Read, learn more about the campaign, and sign on in support at literacyworldwide.org/rightstoread.
With my deepest gratitude for the work that you do--
President, ILA Board of Directors
Bernadette Dwyer lectures in literacy studies at the Institute of Education, Dublin City University (DCU), Ireland and is the current president of the International Literacy Association. She has worked in education for over 38 years as a classroom teacher, reading specialist, teacher educator, researcher, and author.