September 8th was announced as International Literacy Day by UNESCO on November 17th, 1965. The aim of the day is to celebrate literacy worldwide, and to highlight the importance of literacy to both individuals and societies. As part of this celebration there is also a focus on adult learning, to ensure that even those who have left education have the opportunity to be literate. 

International Literacy Day

Literacy was traditionally thought of as the ability to read and write but in the modern world the meaning of the word has expanded to include the use of technology and numbers. It now encompasses the skills we need to engage in this new digital modern world, such as using the internet for anything from researching new information to doing some online shopping. This is why, to emphasise the impact technology can have on literacy, UNESCO have made the theme for this year’s literacy day ‘Literacy in a digital world’.

The statistics regarding worldwide literacy may seem shocking to those in a position to read this, with around one in five adults illiterate. When looking at the research UNESCO has undertaken, a clear link is apparent between illiteracy and countries with severe poverty, and between illiteracy and prejudice against women (over two thirds of illiterate adults are female). 

Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey

This important day helps in raising awareness of these facts, and bringing people together to help promote work to combat these problems. The day is also important as a celebration of literacy and the fantastic opportunities it can provide people with. You only have to look in Westminster Abbey’s Poets’ Corner to see the impact that literacy can have. Without the opportunities gained from having literacy skills, the writers and poets buried here would never have been able to share their ideas and stories with the world. This is not just the case with those laid to rest in Poets’ Corner, as there are many great scientists, politicians and engineers buried in the Abbey that required literacy skills to succeed. This is why it is important to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to become fully literate, regardless of where they are born or what gender they are, because you never know where the next great idea will come from.