Wednesday, 8 September 2010

International Literacy Day - Read all about it ... if you can - Linda Strachan

This year the focus for International Literacy Day is women.
 Unesco describes it as ' an occasion to celebrate women’s empowerment through literacy and pay tribute to the women and men who work behind the scenes who help others acquire literacy skills and enter a world of opportunities'

Being able to read and write is a skill most of us take for granted but in the modern world with all its great technological advances it is incredible that there are something like 759 million people who are illiterate and two out of every three of these people are women.

Imagine not being able to read your child a bedtime story, or the instructions on medicines or labels on food packaging or even the delights of being able to curl up with your favourite book.

These are basic skills without which many doors are closed - opportunities lost...or not even imagined.

I have been invited to speak and present prizes at the Encyclopaedia Britannica prize-giving event  which has been planned for today to celebrate International Literacy Day.

Over 3000 library members from all over Scotland took part in a quiz online which was being held in Scotland through Scottish libraries.  There were questions about Scottish history, politics and literature.  There are three great prizes, one for each category Adult, Student and Junior so that everyone could have a chance to take part by visiting their local library where they could access the Encyclopaedia Britannica free on line or using their library card they could log on at home.

As a writer there are times when I need to do a considerable amount of research for a book and this is where the library service is invaluable and the added choice of having resources available at home, as well as in my local library, is a great help. But in the library, the librarians are so helpful and knowledgeable that I love to go there.  They are so good at finding or suggesting books that might help in my research, or  books I might enjoy to read,  that I am dismayed when I read about plans to close libraries or even put them in supermarkets!

Literature is often a word with stuffy and self-important connotations but the written word in all its forms is vital to us.  Non fiction opens our eyes to the world around us and fiction can give us the opportunity to experience events or emotions, to think about possibilities or consequences that might never have occurred to us otherwise.  We learn through the experiences of the characters, or through reading about history we can perhaps avoid the mistakes of the past.
But in our everyday life we read signs, labels, directions and warnings all the time, often without thinking about it.We connect with people through the internet with emails, websites and blogs.

So today on International Literacy Day spare a moment to think about what you are reading, and about those who cannot read or write, and those who are working to help them acquire those skills.

Linda's latest book is Dead Boy Talking (Strident Publishing)
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Elaine AM Smith said...

The skill of reading is a so empowering, the root of learning and of social change.
Thank you for sharing this.

adele said...

Excellent post, Linda and a more than excellent cause. Universal literacy would do more than anything to end injustices of all kinds. Hurray for this initiative.

catdownunder said...

Thankyou Linda - International Literacy Day has great personal significance for me as I spent a decade of my life working towards what became International Literacy Year. ILY was just the start and each ILD is another small step along the road to literacy. If any reader of ABBA can do anything to help with a literacy project then I would strongly encourage them to do so - and thankyou anyone who does.