Today is International Literacy Day, first declared by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) 52 years ago. Its principle purpose is to highlight the importance of literacy and its links to poverty and empowerment.
This year’s theme is ‘Literacy in a Digital World.’ Digital technology has obviously fundamentally changed every aspect of work, school, socialization, and personal life for billions of people around the planet, and has opened up numerous possibilities for information access.
Unfortunately, such technology remains prohibitively expensive for many, and in communities where illiteracy is already a major problem, lack of digital literacy is becoming an additional driver of marginalization.
Digital literacy has been defined as the 21st century version of traditional literacy–in addition to being able to read, write, and compute, digital literacy also encompasses :
- The ability to socialize and collaborate in an online setting;
- The ability to search for, locate, and assess information;
- The ability to navigate non-linear information (like most websites);
- The ability to create original or derivative works using digital technology.
As our every-day dependence on web-connected digital technology continues to grow, already-marginalized people will continue to fall behind. International Literacy Day’s principal events center around the International Literacy Prizes awards ceremony held in Paris, but people all over the world are invited to ‘…mark achievements and reflect on ways to counter remaining challenges for the promotion of literacy as an integral part of lifelong learning…’ Here are some further ideas for marking the day:
- Start a Little Free Library;
- Volunteer at a library;
- Start a book club;
- Tutor someone in your community;
- Spread the word on social media.