International Literacy Day

32 million adults in the United States can’t read.

I spent a considerable amount of time trying to come up with a less grim way to phrase that, but sometimes the facts should just speak for themselves. I do have to say though, as a blog writer for a library, that statistic is incredibly upsetting.

We as a society have slowly gone away from investing in libraries. It feels as if every year we watch the hours of public libraries get trimmed more and more to save costs. In many towns, university libraries are the only libraries available to the public during weekends and after-work hours. But, of course, not every town has a university or college.

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Many people do not realize how important libraries are to literacy development. The free access to books and materials provided by libraries give children and adults crucial opportunities to learn and practice reading. Libraries traditionally have been centers for after school and summer learning for kids of all socioeconomic backgrounds, as well as places where adults can improve literacy skills in an understanding environment.

As it happens, today is the 50th anniversary of International Literacy Day, established by UNESCO as an effort to “actively mobilize the international community and to promote literacy as an instrument to empower individuals, communities and societies.”  This year begins UNESCO’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, one of the goals of which being to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”

What better place to help further this goal than a library? So I urge you to go and support your local library and the pursuit of literacy in any way you can. Read a book, or read to someone else and help sharpen their skills. Make a small donation or volunteer your time.

The fight to end illiteracy can seem like a daunting fight. But if we all pitch in, one day we will have a country where everyone can read.

By Alex Mesadieu

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