On International Literacy Day 1997 Kofi Annan noted “Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope… the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman and child can realise his or her full potential.”

Literacy is a fundamental human right. The ability to read, write and communicate shapes who we are, how we socialise, how we learn, how we work, and how we navigate through life.

And yet according to UNESCO (2017) 750 million people around the world cannot read and write. Two-thirds of these are female. More than 100 million children around the world do not complete elementary school and so do not learn to read and write. As we approach International Literacy Day (ILD) on September 8th I am sure that you agree with me that in a digital age this is a shocking indictment on us all as global citizens.

The International Literacy Association (ILA), a worldwide organisation and advocacy movement, believes in the power of literacy to transform people’s lives.

In 2018, the ILA Board of Directors convened a task force charged with reviewing existing literature pertaining to a child’s rights to read with the goal of developing a worldwide campaign to ensure that every child receives these fundamental rights. Composed of literacy educators, researchers, and advocates, the task force of ILA members from Australia, Japan, Russia, Ireland and USA reflected the diverse voices we hope to reach. Together, we came up with a list of 10 rights, of equal importance, that ILA believes are essential for individuals to reach full personal, social, and educational potential. I have been honoured to chair this work.

These rights—such as the right to read for pleasure, the right to extended time set aside for reading, the right to read texts that mirror cultures, languages and experiences, the right to share and collaborate both locally and globally—ensure learning environments that unleash the transformative power of reading in the lives of children.

Over the past year of the campaign we have built a range of free resources and publications available on the ILA Website to support this campaign including;

  • Translation of the rights into multiple languages for free download
  • The Case for Children’s Right to Read
  • Children’s Rights to Read Advocacy Manual.

On September 9th to coincide with ILD 2019, we will release a new position statement on Children’s Rights to Excellent Literacy Instruction followed by a series of research briefs.

I would urge you to advocate for these rights in your schools and communities and pledge your support for this campaign on the ILA Website and reinforce that support on your social media channels.

Every child, Everywhere deserves these rights.

Bernadette Dwyer,

Immediate Past President of the International Literacy Association (2019-2020)