In the United States alone, 63 million adults over the age of 16 cannot read at the 8th grade level. That's 29% of our country's adult population that cannot read many of the articles published in their local newspaper. The global statistic is even more staggering; over 793 million people around the world cannot read or write.
We know that these numbers are shocking, but what do they really mean? When a child cannot read or write at an appropriate level for her age, it affects her ability to understand other subjects. Struggling readers connect learning with embarrassment and frustration, which puts stumbling blocks in their way and prevents them from reaching their full potential. Later in life, struggling child readers become struggling adult readers who are far less likely to vote and secure jobs than their literate counterparts. In addition, literacy levels correlate with health outcomes, both for the individual him or herself as well as his or her children. Women in the developing world who receive even up to a fifth grade education are 80 percent more likely to have their children vaccinated. Beyond all the statistics is the simple fact that reading brings great joy, comfort and inspiration when people share it with each other. It is the great connector.
If you are reading this article, you probably learned to read fluently at a younger age, and possibly enjoy reading recreationally; others are not so lucky, and the difference between you and an adult struggling with literacy may mean the difference between opportunities and closed doors. But perhaps you are reading this right now although you too struggle with text and long for the feeling that fluent reading would give you. Now, more than ever, it's important for us to help others claim their right to read and write and to empower ourselves to do the same where necessary.
On March 7th, LitWorld, the global literacy advocacy organization, is hosting its 3rd annual World Read Aloud Day. This year, we're asking you: What would the world be like if everyone could read? This video shares some thoughts we collected from LitWorld children in our programs around New York City, and the volunteers who support our work. The world would like to hear your thoughts too. Watch this video and make your own response: write a comment below, tweet @litworldsays, post on the LitWorld Facebook wall, submit a statement at litworld.org, or make your own video response, post it on YouTube and share it from there.