“I consider the art of reading as something much broader than just reading a book. Dramatizations, screen versions, lyrics, dancing, sports – every approach to literature can be used to get children to read.” – Wally de Donker, Belgium

Today is the UNESCO International Literacy Day. It was created to raise people’s awareness of and concern for literacy issues in the world.

According to UNESCO, about 774 million adults lack the minimum literacy skills. One in five adults is still not literate and two-thirds of them are women. About 75 million children are out-of-school and many more attend irregularly or drop out. However, literacy is also a cause for celebration on the day because there are nearly four billion literate people in the world.

The UN General Assembly proclaimed a 10-year period beginning on January 1, 2003,
as the United Nations Literacy Decade. The assembly also welcomed the International Plan of Action for the Decade and decided for UNESCO to take a coordinating role in activities at an international level within the decade’s framework. On International Literacy Day each year, UNESCO reminds the international community of the status of literacy and adult learning globally. This day was first celebrated on September 8, 1966.

Promoting reading plays an important role in improving literacy throughout the world. Back in May, we spoke with Wally de Doncker, author and Vice President of International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY). De Doncker, who started his career as a teacher, has been a trailblazer in everything from education policy to coeducation in his country and beyond. Now, as a full-time author, he is working to revolutionize the world of children’s literature.

In this video blog, De Doncker dives even deeper into why reading is so important and personal to him. “I am who I am today from reading many books,” says De Doncker.

“Literacy is a human right, a tool of personal empowerment and a means for social and human development. Educational opportunities depend on literacy. Literacy is at  the heart of basic education for all, and essential for eradicating poverty,  reducing child mortality, curbing population growth, achieving gender equality  and ensuring sustainable development, peace and democracy. There are good reasons why literacy is at the core of Education for All (EFA).

A good quality basic education equips pupils with literacy skills for life and further  learning; literate parents are more likely to send their children to school;  literate people are better able to access continuing educational opportunities; and literate societies are better geared to meet pressing development.“


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