September 4, 2020
On Sept. 8, the world will recognize International Literacy Day amid a global pandemic that has left more than 1.5 billion children out of school and threatens decades of progress on global education.
Further, more than 387 million children and adolescents globally still are not achieving minimum proficiency in reading, according to UNESCO data. With less than a decade left to achieve the ideals of Sustainable Development Goal 4 – to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all – the time is now to discover the unique role each of us play to ensure all children have the opportunity to learn to read.
Here are three ways you can be part of the solution to advance child literacy around the globe:
1. Use free EdTech solutions to support literacy learning for children. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a significant shift to online learning and has amplified the need for quality EdTech solutions to meet the needs of children impacted by education lapses. Through multiple grant and prize competitions, All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development (ACR GCD) has funded and tested dozens of solutions to improve literacy and learning outcomes for children who have limited or no access to books, quality education or personalized learning. These solutions were sourced and tested long before COVID-19 made e-learning a global necessity. We invite Ministries of Education, education implementers and others to use these free tools to support children’s literacy learning both in and out of school.
2. Develop or translate books in languages children use and understand. A leading barrier to improving children’s reading skills is the lack of appropriate, accessible and engaging reading materials in local languages. Research shows that children experience greater reading success when learning in a language they use and understand, yet millions of children around the globe aren’t provided the opportunities or resources to learn to read in these languages.
ACR GCD has invested in the development and translation of books in underserved languages, including sign languages. Through our recent Begin With Books prize, our innovators are creating thousands of books in some of the most underserved languages of the world, including a collection of books focused on COVID-19 prevention. Our No Lost Generation prize winner Asafeer created 100 open source books in Arabic and English on STEM-focused topics, which in addition to being available for free on the Global Digital Library, can be translated on the platform into any language, or the images used to create new books.
Further, our Enabling Writers prize-winning book creation software, Bloom, enables anyone to create simple books and translate them into multiple languages.
How you can help: Anyone who can write in two languages can translate children’s books into local languages. You can do this by developing or translating books into local spoken or sign languages on the Global Digital Library or using Bloom software. Take this step even further by hosting a translation sprint, coordinating a group of volunteers to translate books on these platforms for even greater impact.
3. Commit to advancing inclusive education for children with disabilities. When we speak of the mission of All Children Reading, we really mean all. That’s why a major focus of our programming is enhancing literacy learning for children with disabilities. This is an effort that cannot be done without the participation of local and global partners, particularly disabled persons organizations who are intimately familiar with the literacy, learning and contextual needs of the more than 93 million children globally with a disability. This is a key focus of our current UnrestrICTed Challenge, which is bringing together local and global solvers and technical experts to co-create approaches to scale EdTech solutions – grounded in Universal Design for Learning – to improve literacy and learning for children with disabilities in Rwanda, Nepal, and Papua New Guinea.
Our past Sign On For Literacy and Book Boost: Access for All Challenge prizes also have sourced solutions to provide children with disabilities access to literacy and learning. Platforms like World Around You, Studio KSL, and Signs and Smiles provide books, software, and/or other resources in local sign languages. Two toolkits also are available for free to publishers, Ministries of Education and others to support the development and use of accessible books for children with disabilities.
How you can help: Leverage the solutions in our resource library to support inclusive education for children with disabilities. If you’re a publisher, commit to adopting accessible publishing standards. If you’re buying books for education programs, require books that meet the needs of every child.
Together, we can advance literacy and learning for the 387 million children globally waiting for the opportunity to learn to read. Join us in making child literacy a priority not only on International Literacy Day, but every day, until this basic human right is afforded to every child.