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September 7, 2010 > International Literacy Day - September 8

International Literacy Day - September 8

By Suzanne Ortt

Photo by Miriam G. Mazliach

Nearly four billion people around the world are literate. That is reason to celebrate. Today one in five adults are not literate and that is reason to keep working toward universal literacy. Illiteracy refers to the inability to read and write in any language.

Aware of the dire literacy problem, The United Nations General Assembly resolved to commit 10 years to the process. The United Nations Literacy Decade, started January 1, 2003 by appointing the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to coordinate international activities within the framework of a decade. Laura Bush was appointed Honorary Ambassador for the United Nations Literacy Decade.

Now UNESCO is at the forefront of global literacy efforts. Literacy is at the heart of basic education for all. It will reduce poverty, childhood mortality, improve gender equality, and promote democracy and peace. These lofty goals are the reason for International Literacy Day, September 8.

The United States also has literacy problems. Nationally, 15 million adults are illiterate and 30 million functionally illiterate. Functionally illiterate individuals only read and write simple sentences, have a poor vocabulary, and difficulty functioning in the everyday world. According to statistics, our state's illiteracy rate is increasing. One source, Wiki Answers, stated California's functional illiteracy rate is 24 percent.

A good resource for literacy programs is our libraries. Alameda County has adopted "Write to Read," a collaborative program providing library services, programs, and literacy to incarcerated youth. It is held at the Juvenile Justice Center. Currently 132,000 books are circulated annually and read by more than 3,000 incarcerated students. A gain of over seven grade levels in reading comprehension was shown in a recent evaluation. At one point, 33 percent said they did not like to read. Now only 3 percent make that claim. Volunteer help is welcome; those interested can check with the Fremont Main Library for more information at (510) 745-1480.

Hayward Public Library offers an adult literacy program, "Literacy Plus." By improving reading, comprehension skills, and vocabulary, the learner gains self-sufficiency, independence, and pride. Volunteer literacy tutors are usually needed. Call (510) 881-7912.

Fremont Main Library, 2400 Stevenson Boulevard, plans a celebration of International Literacy Day one day early, on Tuesday, September 7 from 6 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. Come and share a passage from a book you love. Everyone is welcome to this free event. For more information call (510) 745-1480.

Literacy Plus Program -Hayward Public Library: (510) 881-7912.
Write to Read Program - Alameda County Libraries offer adult literacy programs at different branches and youth literacy at the Juvenile Justice Center. For information, call Fremont Main Library (510)745-1480.

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