September 3, 2019
Imagine for a moment all the resources that made it possible for you to read this sentence.
Chances are you pictured a book. Maybe it was your favorite picture book from childhood or a novel. Or maybe it was family or teachers who read to you or taught you to read. Or the library you visited to check out new books. Whatever it was, it’s obvious that books were essential on your path to literacy. Not only that, books were essential to opening other opportunities in your life, including education, employment, health and participation in society.
Yet for millions of children around the world, books are often unavailable or unusable. Many children have zero books in the language they use and understand, thereby limiting their right to literacy and education and all the opportunities that result. For the more than 93 million children with disabilities, the shortage of books is even more severe, as books, if available at all, often are not available in accessible formats.
This is one of many factors contributing to 387 million children globally who finish primary school without proficiency in reading. Books are essential for children to become literate, and research shows they experience greater reading success when learning in their local spoken or signed language.
Every time books are created in an additional language, it opens a pathway to learning for the millions of children who use that language. And that, in turn, opens a host of opportunities for those children to reach their full potential in virtually every other aspect of their lives.
At All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development, one of our key focus areas is expanding the development, access and use of books in languages and contexts in which there are little to no books for children, including braille books or sign language video books for children with disabilities. Since launching in 2011, we’ve provided more than one million books and learning materials to children in more than 140 languages, and that impact continues to grow in part due to advances in technology and open-source solutions.
For example, ACR GCD seeded and supported the creation of a Global Digital Library (GDL), a free web-based platform developed by the Norwegian Government that provides high-quality books and learning resources in more than 30 languages and growing. The 100 Adventures in Science and Life ebooks in Arabic, funded by our No Lost Generation Tech Summit prize and developed by Asafeer Education Technologies, are available on the GDL and continue to be translated into multiple languages or used to develop new content. And Bloom software, developed by Enabling Writers prize winner SIL LEAD, enables local authors to create grade-appropriate, accessible content for children in hundreds of languages.
Further, our Book Boost: Access for All Challenge and Sign On For Literacy prizes are leading more content creators to incorporate accessibility features at the onset of book development and expanding the amount of books in accessible formats for children with disabilities.
Those are just a few of the more than 80 innovations ACR GCD has funded, many of which support the development and access of early grade reading materials for children in low-resource regions of the world.
But our work is not complete until every child has the books and resources needed in the language they use and understand, opening literacy and opportunity to millions more children around the world. We can’t do this alone; it is only through the collective effort of multiple partners—governments, multilateral institutions, creative thinkers, families, communities and others—that we can move the needle on improving child literacy worldwide, while simultaneously accelerating progress across multiple development goals.
That’s why in October, ACR GCD will launch a new initiative to provide books in regions of the world where there are few to no resources for children in languages they use and understand.
Beginning with books, we can ensure more children are prepared to reach their full potential. We hope you’ll stay tuned next month as we launch this new initiative that invites you to become part of the solution for 387 million children waiting for the opportunity to learn to read.