Maybe I’m naive, but I naturally assume that any adult I come across can read. I write, after all. Readers are my audience. And you learn to read in elementary school, right? But that of course isn’t the case.

According to the International Reading Association, 860 million of the world’s adults are unable to read or write (nearly 2/3 of that number are women), and over 100 million children lack access to education. Those are BIG numbers. As writers, these numbers should stun us – they did me.

Today is  International Literacy Day, first created by The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1967 to to focus attention on the need to promote worldwide literacy. International Literacy Day is now sponsored by the International Reading Association.

Some other facts that might surprise you:

  • Teaching mothers to read can lead to a decrease in infant mortality of up to 50%.
  • One-half of all adults in U.S. federal and state correctional institutions cannot read or write at all; 85% of juvenile offenders have reading problems.
  • For juveniles involved in quality reading instruction programs while in prison, recidivism was reduced by 20 % or more.
  • According to researchers Hart and Risley findings in the U.S., professional families’ children hear an average of 2,153 words per hour, in working class families 1,251 words per hour, and in welfare families only 616 words per hour.

These people cannot read our books/devotionals/articles, or God’s Word. As you write today, take the time to think of those who are unable to read your words.

What role should we, as readers and Christians, play in helping the illiterate learn to read? Have you ever participated in a literacy program? Which of these facts was most surprising to you?

*All information taken from International Reading Association’s International Literacy Day webpage

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