International Literacy Day


International Literacy Day is an
international observance A national or international awareness day or observance is a date usually set by a major organisation or government to commemorate a public health Public health has been defined as "the science and art of Preventive healthcare, preventing d ...

international observance
, celebrated each year on 8 September, that was declared by
UNESCO The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (french: Organisation des Nations unies pour l'éducation, la science et la culture) is a List of specialized agencies of the United Nations, specialised agency of th ...

on 26 October 1966 at the 14th session of UNESCO's General Conference. It was celebrated for the first time in 1967. Its aim is to highlight the importance of
literacy Literacy is popularly understood as an ability to read and write Writing is a medium of human communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share") is the act of developing Semantics, meaning among Subject (ph ...
to individuals, communities and societies. Celebrations take place in several countries.


Some 775 million lack minimum literacy skills; one in five adults are still not literate and two-thirds of them are women; 60.7 million children are out-of-school and many more attend irregularly or drop out. According to UNESCO’s "Global Monitoring Report on Education for All (2006)",
South Asia South Asia is the southern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere, Eastern and Northern Hemisphere, Northern Hemisphere of the Earth, Hemispheres. It shares the ...

South Asia
has the lowest regional adult
literacy rate Literacy is popularly understood as an ability to read and write Writing is a medium of human communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share") is the act of developing Semantics, meaning among Subject (ph ...
(58.6%), followed by
sub-Saharan Africa Sub-Saharan Africa (commonly called Black Africa) is, geographically, the area of the continent of Africa that lies south of the Sahara. According to the United Nations, it consists of all list of sovereign states and dependent territories in ...

sub-Saharan Africa
(59.7%). Countries with the lowest literacy rates in the world are
Burkina Faso Burkina Faso (, ; ) is a landlocked country in West Africa that covers an area of around and is bordered by Mali to the northwest, Niger to the northeast, Benin to the southeast, Togo and Ghana to the south, and the Ivory Coast to the southwe ...

Burkina Faso
Niger ) , official_languages = French French (french: français(e), link=no) may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a country primar ...

(14.4%) and
Mali Mali (; ), officially the Republic of Mali (french: République du Mali; bm, ߡߊߟߌ ߞߊ ߝߊߛߏߖߊߡߊߣߊ, Mali ka Fasojamana, ff, 𞤈𞤫𞤲𞥆𞤣𞤢𞥄𞤲𞤣𞤭 𞤃𞤢𞥄𞤤𞤭, Renndaandi Maali, ar, جمهورية م ...

(19%). The report shows a clear connection between illiteracy and countries in severe poverty, and between illiteracy and prejudice against women.


Celebrations of International Literacy Day have included specific themes, in line with Education For All goals and other United Nations programs such as the United Nations Literacy Decade. The celebration's theme for 2007 and 2008 was “Literacy and Health”, with prizes awarded to organizations at the forefront of health education. This was also the thematic emphasis of the 2007–2008 biennium of the United Nations Literacy Decade. In particular, International Literacy Day 2008 had a strong emphasis on Literacy and Epidemics with a focus on communicable diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, some of the world's forefront public health concerns. For 2009–2010 the emphasis was placed on “Literacy and Empowerment”, with special consideration to
gender equality Gender equality, also known as sexual equality or equality of the sexes, is the state of equal ease of access to resources and opportunities regardless of gender, including economic participation and decision-making; and the state of valuing d ...

gender equality
and the
empowerment Empowerment is the degree of autonomy and self-determination in people and in communities. This enables them to represent their interests in a responsible and self-determined way, acting on their own authority. It is the process of becoming stronge ...

of women. The theme of the 2011–2012 celebrations is “Literacy and Peace”. The following writers are supporting UNESCO through the Writers for Literacy Initiative:
Margaret Atwood Margaret Eleanor Atwood (born November 18, 1939) is a Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, teacher A teacher (also called a schoolteacher or formally, an educator) is a person who helps Student, students to acquire knowle ...
Paul Auster Paul Benjamin Auster (born February 3, 1947) is an American writer and film director. His notable works include ''The New York Trilogy'' (1987), ''Moon Palace'' (1989), ''The Music of Chance'' (1990), ''The Book of Illusions'' (2002), ''The Brook ...

Paul Auster
Philippe Claudel Philippe Claudel (born 2 February 1962) is a French writer and film director. Claudel was born in Dombasle-sur-Meurthe, Meurthe-et-Moselle. In addition to his writing, Claudel is a Professor of Literature at the University of Nancy A univer ...
Paulo Coelho Paulo Coelho de Souza (, ; born 24 August 1947) is a Brazilian lyricist and novelist, best known for his novel ''The Alchemist (novel), The Alchemist''. In 2014, he uploaded his personal papers online to create a virtual Paulo Coelho Foundation. ...
, Philippe Delerm,
Fatou Diome Fatou Diome (born 1968 in Niodior) is a France, French-Senegal, Senegalese writer known for her best-selling novel ''The Belly of the Atlantic'', which was published in 2001. Her work explores immigrant life in France, and the relationship between ...
, Chahdortt Djavann, Nadine Gordimer,
Amitav Ghosh Amitav Ghosh (born 11 July 1956)Ghosh, Amitav
, ''
, Marc Levy,
Alberto Manguel Alberto Manguel (born March 13, 1948, in Buenos Aires Buenos Aires ( or ; ), officially Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, is the Capital city, capital and largest city of Argentina. The city is located on the western shore of the Río de la Pla ...
, Anna Moi, Scott Momaday,
Toni Morrison Chloe Anthony Wofford Morrison (born Chloe Ardelia Wofford; February 18, 1931 – August 5, 2019), known as Toni Morrison, was an American novelist. Her first novel, '' The Bluest Eye'', was published in 1970. The critically acclaimed ''Son ...

Toni Morrison
, Érik Orsenna, Gisèle Pineau, El Tayeb Salih, Francisco Jose Sionil, Wole Soyinka, Amy Tan, Miklós Vámos, Abdourahman Waberi, Wei Wei (female writer), Wei Wei, Banana Yoshimoto. Not only the writers contribute to raising awareness to the problem of illiteracy: along with the writers’ engagement, there are various companies and charity organizations that support the fight against illiteracy. Some supporters of International Literacy Day include the Global Development Research Center, Montblanc (pens), Montblanc, the National Institute for Literacy, and Rotary International.

See also

* Literacy * List of countries by literacy rate * UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy * UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize * United Nations Literacy Decade


External links

UN Page

UNESCO's Literacy Portal

UNESCO Effective Literacy Practice Database
{{Authority control United Nations days, Literacy Day, International Literacy September observances UNESCO, Literacy Day, International