In 2021, literacy rates across the world for individuals 15 years and older are estimated to be 86.3%; in the U.S. alone, the rates are estimated at 99% (World Population Review, 2021). In my humble opinion, I think this is one of humankind’s greatest achievements (along with going to the moon and perhaps inventing ice cream). However, there is more work to be done because there are still 773 million adults and children without literacy skills. Our goal as a global community should be to raise literacy rates to 100% because of the immense benefits of reading. Being able to read allows a person to have access to a knowledge base that spans the course of human history and use this information to cultivate new skills and understanding. Reading also enables us to explore the world outside of our individual point of view, and to experience endless sources of creativity.
In 1966, the United Nations proclaimed September 8th to be International Literacy Day to pledge continuing efforts towards literacy development (United Nations, n.d.). Due to the enormous impacts of COVID-19, it is even more important for us this International Literacy Day to acknowledge the negative impacts school closings and educational interruptions have had on reading development, both abroad and in the U.S. On a global scale, higher literacy rates are associated with better health outcomes, especially lower infant mortality rates (Giovetti, 2020). As people are able to read, they can better communicate with and understand medical professionals as well as medical instructions (Giovetti, 2020). This is especially crucial during a global pandemic, where communicating medical information is needed to combat the virus. Increasing literacy rates also improves gender equality because it allows women to be more active members in their community and seek employment (Giovetti, 2020). It is estimated that for every 10% increase of female students in a country, the gross domestic product increases by an average of 3% (Giovetti, 2020).
But what can reading do for us individually? More advanced reading abilities allow for better skills development and job opportunities (Giovetti, 2020). Reading can also improve vocabulary, communication, and empathy, and can prevent age-related cognitive decline (Stanborough, 2019). Literacy is a skill passed down through generations, so if you have kids, one of the best ways to motivate them to read is to model for them that reading can be fun (Indy K12, 2018). Growing up, some of my favorite and earliest memories were of me and my mom going to the library and both checking out books. Her enthusiasm for reading was very impressionable for me and I have been a lifelong reader ever since.
Tips for Reading More
In a busy and chaotic world, how can we make time and motivation for a quiet activity such as reading? Not to mention affording the cost of books! Here are a few tips I hope will help…
I am of the mindset that anyone can love reading if they find the right type of book for them. Depending on the book I am reading, the experience can be either like watching paint dry, or I finish the book so fast I have to run to the nearest bookstore to pick up the next book in the series. Goodreads is one of my favorite websites because one can set up a free profile and be linked to a bunch of recommended books based on one’s reading preferences. Goodreads also has a feature to create reading challenges, such as making a goal to read 12 books in a year (another great way to motivate more reading).
Awesome, there are now a bunch of books I want to read, but how can I afford them?
The library is a great resource to access books, but depending on where you live, these may not be easily accessible or may have limited hours. But did you know that there are now apps that allow you to digitally check out books (or even audiobooks) from library networks? Overdrive makes several apps that allow users to do just that. These apps even have audiobooks, a great way to enjoy books for those of us who are always on the go. But what if you want to stick to physical copies of books (a favorite of mine because it gives my eyes a break from staring at computer screens)? There are always used books. My personal favorite used bookstore here in Colorado is called 2nd and Charles (they also have numerous locations in other states). Books can be bought for cheap, read, and then sold back (unless you love them and want to keep them). Another option that has online purchasing is the online seller Thriftbooks.
In summary, I would like to leave you with a Dr. Seuss quote: “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
Happy International Literacy Day 2021!
- Giovetti, O. (2020, August 27). 6 BENEFITS OF LITERACY IN THE FIGHT AGAINST POVERTY. Concern Worldwide US. https://www.concernusa.org/story/benefits-of-literacy-against-poverty/
- Indy K12. (2018, September 3). Reading in front of children will encourage your children to read. Indy K12. https://indy.education/2018/07/19/2018-7-19-reading-in-front-of-children-will-encourage-your-children-to-read/
- Stanborough, Rebecca Joy (2019). Benefits of Reading Books: How it can Positively Affect Your Life. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-reading-books
- United Nations. (n.d.). International literacy day. United Nations. https://www.un.org/en/observances/literacy-day
- World Population Review (2021). Literacy Rate by Country 2021. https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/literacy-rate-by-country