Monday, 1 September 2008

September hosts US Literacy Month & International Literacy Day

The Workforce Investment Act of 1998 defines literacy as "an individual's ability to read, write, speak in English, compute and solve problems at levels of proficiency necessary to function on the job, in the family of the individual and in society."

International Literacy Day - 8 September 2008
On International Literacy Day each year, UNESCO reminds the international community of the status of literacy and adult learning globally.

Despite many and varied efforts, literacy remains an elusive target: some 774 million adults lack minimum literacy skills; one in five adults is still not literate and two-thirds of them are women; 75 million children are out-of-school and many more attend irregularly or drop out.

International Literacy Day (ILD) 2008 is placing a special focus on the important relationship between literacy and health. This is the theme for the 2007-2008 biennium of the United Nations Literacy Decade.

UNESCO and its partners are underlining the significance of literacy for healthy societies, with a strong emphasis on epidemics and communicable diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. These are some of the world’s most important public health concerns. This year’s slogan is “Literacy is the best remedy”.

September is dedicated to Literacy in the US

According to the US department of education, over 19,000 adults participated in the national and state-level literacy assessments, the latest literacy statistics from 2003, which represented the entire population of U.S. adults who are age 16 and older. Approximately 1,200 inmates of federal and state prisons were assessed in order to provide separate estimates of literacy for the incarcerated population.

By comparing results from 1992 and 2003, NAAL provided the first indicator in a decade of the nation's progress in adult literacy. NAAL also provides information on adults' literacy performance and related background characteristics to researchers, practitioners, policymakers, and the general public.

61% of low-income families have no books at all in their homes for their children (McQuillan, Jeff. "The Literacy Crisis: False Claims, Real Solutions." 1998.)

40 million adults in the U.S. can't read well enough to read a simple story to a child (NCES, 1992).

Reading difficulty contributes to school failure, which increases the risk of absenteeism, leaving school, juvenile delinquency, substance abuse, and teenage pregnancy — all of which perpetuate the cycles of poverty and dependency.

But this September, here's a few highlights where getting involved makes a difference:
Reach Out and Read (ROR) is a US national non-profit organization that promotes early literacy by giving new books to children and advice to parents about the importance of reading aloud in pediatric exam rooms across the nation.

More than 50,000 doctors have given 20 million free books to America's youngest children living in poverty, thanks to Reach Out and Read. It costs approximately $8 per year, per child to deliver ROR per clinic.

Have you considered becoming a Literacy Volunteer? Here's an example from New Jersey, but you can contact the National Center for Family Literacy or other organisations for contacts in your area.

How do I find a nearby literacy program?
To find a literacy program in your neighborhood, go to America's Literacy Directory, or call the National Institute for Literacy Hotline at 1-800-228-8813 to speak with an English- or Spanish-speaking operator. You can also check with a neighborhood library, community college, or city or county human services office, or contact your state's Director of Adult Education to find out about federally-funded programs. Contact ProLiteracy Worldwide to see if there are one-on-one volunteer tutoring programs in your area. If your interest is family literacy, contact the Even Start office in your state or the National Center for Family Literacy. You can find other organisations with needs for books here.

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