April 3, 2015 6:06 am

According to Jen Selinsky, “literacy is one of the greatest gifts a person could receive”. Unfortunately, not every citizen has an opportunity to learn how to read and write. As UNESCO’s statistics show, “the illiterate adult population is estimated in total 781 million whereas the illiterate youth population is 126 million globally”, so even though literacy continues to rise, illiteracy is still an acute problem, so this is the reason why “illiteracy” has been chosen as the IATE term of the week. It is really sad that during the “International Children’s Book Day” which is celebrated every April 2nd, we will remain in the almost unaltered circle of literate people. So, let’s make progress and provide people right now with the basic educational skills, most of all reading and writing.

illiteracy IATE

Understand the problem

Even if the lowest literacy rates are observed in Sub-Saharan Africa and in South and West Asia, it is a misconception that the problem of illiteracy doesn’t concern the European citizens directly. In fact, researchers conducted some reading tests in which respondents are asked to read a card with a short sentence to appraise the correctness of their self-esteem. Next, the respondents are classified in one of three groups: unable to read all, able to read solely parts of the sentence or able to read the whole sentence. It is worth underlining that only the last ones are regarded as literate. According to statistics, “20% of adults lack the literacy skills they need to function fully in modern society”, but what does it mean? Frankly speaking, literacy makes you an active participant of society, so you are able to follow instructions, attend school lessons, develop your passions or work – just to mention a few.

Beat illiteracy!

Remember that early literacy begins with you, so help your child get ready to read! First, be honest: how often do you read aloud to your children? Are you supportive when he or she wants to go to the library or a bookshop? Do you really encourage your children to read instead of sitting in front of the computer? If you answered no, don’t be surprised if your children will have some problems with acquiring knowledge at school or socialising with peers in the future. Remember that as far as reading for pleasure is concerned, it really doesn’t matter which type of books your kids prefer. If you don’t know which books are right to read, don’t hesitate to ask others to recommend you some which are suitable for the reading development of kids or reach out for a book which is tailored for a specific age group.

Let’s prioritise literacy around the world

Nowadays, literacy is the key to participate in society, therefore politicians should put this issue as a highly important one on the agenda – especially when it does not incur high expenses. The only requirement is getting people involved in campaigns – especially celebrities who can easily encourage others to read for pleasure as well as media which could transfer the positive example across the country and all age groups. One of the best illustrations of a successful literacy campaign is “Cała Polska Czyta Dzieciom” (“All of Poland Reads to Kids”) which was a perfect model for other European countries. The idea of that campaign is to shape a fondness for books in childhood and follow the credo “Read to your children 20 minutes a day. Every day!”. The prerequisite is nothing special as one can easily save 20 minutes on a daily basis for spending time with kids and having fun while being deeply engaged in the fascinating plot of a book in which anything can happen. Interestingly, this mutual fascination for books is invaluable as it contributes to the expansion of vocabulary, stimulation of language, development of communication skills as well as support of logical and critical thinking. The more time parents devote to reading aloud to children, the faster kids will be able to express their needs and views. Moreover, reading brings a great impact on children’ s self-confidence. Nonetheless, the hidden idea of that campaign is to protect children from addiction to media and computers, and to introduce them to the world of fairy tales and fascinating stories. How to persuade kids to read? First of all, associate books with pleasure, so they should be suited to kids’ hobbies and interests. Thereby, show them that books could satisfy their curiosity about the surrounding world. There is no point in forcing children to read. It is highly recommended to inspire them to unveil the unknown stories which are covered in books.

Here you can see a Polish reading campaign:

“All of Poland Reads to Kids”

Revolution of the communication system

Even if we could resolve the problem of illiteracy, the next problem appears: digital illiteracy, which is caused by the evolution in the communication system. In the beginning, people communicated only orally, next it was the era of both oral and written communication, and currently we are witnesses of a digital communication revolution. The emergence of technology changed completely the way in which we transfer messages between us nowadays. To get a real sense of digital communication, just have a look at smartphones, mobile phones and tablets which are common in everyday use. So, if you couldn’t afford to buy a smartphone or if you still don’t have access to Internet, you will be regarded as a digitally illiterate person. Nowadays, a new dimension of communication is created and the most important issue is to possess IT skills which are in demand if you are looking for work. As a result, a new kind of illiteracy needs to be mentioned on the worldwide agenda which is called “digital illiteracy”. According to statistics, “older Europeans have a double challenge to overcome: 71% of 55 to 74-year-olds have never used the Internet, compared to 11% of the younger generation”. So it is also a reason why the state should offer free computer classes – especially for the unemployed and the elderly people.

Find out more about digital literacy here:

What is digital literacy?

Here you can find recommended book lists for children, teenagers or young adults:

Children’s choices 2015

Young adult’s choices reading list

Teachers’ choices


Reading is fundamental

Adult and youth literacy

EU final report

What kids really want to read

Quotes about reading, literacy, good books

Written by Aleksandra Święcicka. Journalist, web editor, social media expert.

Communication Trainee at TermCoord

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