Books and reading have been an intrinsic part of life since long before I can remember. They are intrinsic both to a profession I love but also to the endless hours of pleasure and escapism. It’s hard to imagine existing in a world where the written word is absent. Last month was International Literacy Day and whilst clearly aware that there is global inequality in people having access to books, the statistics still shock bringing home the magnitude of the problem, and its devastating impact on people’s daily lives.
According to UNESCO there are 793million adults around the world who are illiterate which means one in four of us cannot read. Two out of three people who are illiterate are women and 97 per cent of people with disabilities can’t read. Illiterate people earn 40% less than their literate peers. Children with literate mothers are 50% more likely to live past the age of five and people who can read are less prone to illness and accidents.
Many countries and organisations have programs which do great work to redress the literacy balance for example http://www.internationalbookbank.org/. It’s motto says it all: Send a Book. Change a Life. Some offer innovative ways of improving literacy like the Indigenous Reading Project in Australia which uses Kindles to help kids in remote areas access book http://www.irp.org.au/. For those of us who owe so much to books for the pleasure in life it’s worth trying to share the joy. Literacy changes lives.