March is Literacy Month!
According to recent UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) studies, some 776 million adults lack minimum literacy skills; one in five are not literate and two-thirds are women. 75 million children are out of school, and many more attend irregularly or drop out.
The report shows a clear connection between illiteracy and countries in severe poverty, and between illiteracy and prejudice against women. Literacy isnít just about reading books. Reading and writing are tools for eradicating poverty, a means of reducing child mortality, and the key to gender equality. In todayís rapidly-evolving, high-technology world, illiteracy usually equals unemployment. An estimated 41% to 44% of adults with only basic literacy skills live below the poverty line, compared to 4% to 8% of adults with high literacy rates, who live above the poverty line.
Once the most literate country in the world, the United States now ranks between 12th and 24th, and has shown little progress in improving national literacy levels since the early 1990s. But illiteracy is an even more overwhelming problem in developing nations. Countries in south Asia, west Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa have particularly low rates of literacy. In Haiti, only half of adults can read, while in Afghanistan, as few as 12% of their female population is literate.
Rotary has long supported literacy and education for all. Projects have strengthened schools, built community libraries, and given the precious gift of reading and writing to those in need. As we celebrate Literacy Month this March, we are confronted by the monumental challenge of helping nearly over three quarter of a billion people experience the essential pleasure and power of reading and writing. Without these fundamental skills, too many people around the world will continue to be trapped by poverty, hunger, and disease. A literate world helps people escape poverty, empowers women, and addresses issues related to water, health, and hunger.
Rotarians can focus on specific projects during Literacy Month this March and, by doing so, will improve the lives of children, adults, and communities worldwide. What can your club do? Collect new or used books for a local school. Help an immigrant community with literacy. Get some of your club members to serve as mentors at a local school. Establish a toy and book library at a school or other public facility in an impoverished neighborhood. Provide child care for parents attending literacy classes. These are just a few ideas.
Rotary Internationalís Literacy Resource Group provides information and support to Rotary clubs and districts to encourage participation in programs and projects that promote universal literacy and educational opportunities for all.
Yours in Rotary,
Submitted by Claire Little, District Governor, Rotary District 5110
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