International Literacy Day 2017: Literacy in a Digital World

International Literacy Day 2017: Literacy in a Digital World

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Tanyella Evans is co-founder & CEO of Library For All.

Tanyella Evans is co-founder & CEO of Library For All.

Did you know that the world’s poorest households are more likely to have access to mobile phones than to toilets or clean water?

It’s true – 8 in 10 individuals living in developing countries own a mobile phone, and mobile penetration rises year over year. (World Bank, 2016)

We live in a time where people living on less than $1.25 USD per day have access to a mobile phone, representing a huge opportunity to reach the world’s poorest people with critical services to improve literacy. The UN’s theme for International Literacy Day of “Literacy in a Digital World” shines a spotlight on this potential.

Literacy is key to changing the lives of the 1.3 billion people living in extreme poverty. Literacy opens the door to lifelong learning, allowing individuals to earn higher incomes, raise healthier families, and build stronger communities.

If we want to eradicate extreme poverty for a billion people in our lifetime, we must provide books and learning materials to the millions who are illiterate – an overwhelming 750 million adults and 263 million children. Access to relevant, language appropriate books is critical to ensuring individuals are given the opportunity to achieve basic literacy skills.

When I was 17, I volunteered as a teacher for a year in Uganda, and it was a year that changed my life. At the school where I worked, books were so scarce that they were kept under lock and key in the principal’s office. I had just one textbook to teach a class of 40 students. Each day, I would transcribe our lesson on the chalkboard, and after class, the students I taught were so eager to learn that they would beg me for homework.

At a young age, I saw firsthand how easy it might be for individuals in developing countries to fall short of functional literacy, even after attending school. And unsurprisingly, in accordance with illiteracy rates, as much as 40% of the global population does not have access to books in a language they speak or understand.

"When I was 17, I volunteered as a teacher for a year in Uganda, and it was a year that changed my life. At the school where I worked, books were so scarce that they were kept under lock and key in the principal’s office. I had just one textbook to teach a class of 40 students."

"When I was 17, I volunteered as a teacher for a year in Uganda, and it was a year that changed my life. At the school where I worked, books were so scarce that they were kept under lock and key in the principal’s office. I had just one textbook to teach a class of 40 students."

We believe technology is a powerful, equalizing force in the face of of such a massive illiteracy crisis: through widespread technology, our mission is to make knowledge accessible to all, equally.

My team at Library For All has built a global digital library platform that houses content curated for communities across the developing world. Today, individuals in countries like Haiti and Rwanda can access reading material via our digital library using devices they already own (i.e. mobile phones and tablets).

Our vision is to provide every student and family in the developing world with access to a high quality, digital library of reading materials, providing them with the tools to learn, dream and aspire to lift themselves out of poverty.

This International Literacy Day, we invite you to support literacy in a digital world today and every day by making a monthly gift to Library For All. Every $10 will provide one child access to our digital library for a full year.