Right now, you are doing something that one in five people on the face of this planet cannot do!
As one who values my ability to read above most other skills, I find that an appalling statistic! According to the World Literacy Foundation, an estimated 67 million children around the world do not have access to primary school education! Equally disturbing is the fact that almost two-thirds of the world’s illiterate adults are women. Given that statistic, it’s hardly surprising to learn that the majority of the world’s poor are also female.
Today is International Literacy Day, a day for shedding light on the desperate need to ensure that all people have the opportunity to learn to read and write. Education is a basic human right, but one that many people are denied, particularly in parts of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The problem is not restricted to underdeveloped parts of the world, however. Literacy rates in Canada are high, around 97 per cent, but what does that really mean? While they may have basic decoding skills, the most recent literacy study by Statistics Canada shows that millions of Canadians do not have the literacy skills they need to keep pace with the escalating demands of our society and economy. A whopping 48% of Canadian adults over the age of 16, many of them new immigrants, have low literacy skills that do not adequately equip them for the workforce. The situation is similar in the US.
But what can we do? How can you and I overcome such an enormous global issue? That’s where the Starfish Story comes in (adapted from The Star Thrower by Loren Eiseley).
We cannot solve the world’s literacy problem, but we can make a difference for one or two.
This is Marie. My husband and I have been sponsoring her through New Missions, a small organization operating in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, since she was in primary school. She now attends high school and dreams of becoming a nurse. For approximately one dollar a day, we provide her with the opportunity to go to school in Haiti where only 2% of the children finish high school and about 40% of the adult population is illiterate. She also receives a hot meal at school each day as well as regular health check-ups and medical care when it’s needed. There are many similar organizations, including World Vision, that offer you the opportunity to provide a child with the chance to go to school. Perhaps that child could be your starfish!
I also choose to give Kiva loans to impoverished women in third world countries who are helping support their families and educate their children. By investing in women’s lives, society as a whole benefits because women typically reinvest 90% of their income back into their families. In so doing, they break the cycle of illiteracy and help lift their families out of poverty.
Closer to home, encouraging literacy is as simple as reading to a child! Fill your home with books and let the children in your life see you enjoying the gift of reading.