International Literacy Day 2013: Literacies for the 21st Century

Literacy is much more than an educational priority—it is the ultimate investment in the future and the first step towards all the new forms of literacy required in the twenty-first century. We wish to see a century where every child is able to read and to use this skill to gain autonomy.

-Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director General

(September 2013) The theme chosen by UNESCO for this year’s International Literacy Day, “Literacies for the 21st Century,” reflects the foundational role of literacy in lifelong learning and the well-being of individuals, families and communities. This year’s celebration also acknowledges the many developing applications of literacy in a world of rapidly changing technology. Celebrations to mark the occasion are held annually on or around 8 September.

For SIL, one highlight of this year’s International Literacy Day celebration was the ceremony honoring recipients of this year’s King Sejong Prizes for Literacy, held at UNESCO’s Paris headquarters. The Federation of Guera Language Associations (Federation des Associations de Promotion des Langues du Guera, FAPLG) received this prestigious award for its dedication to supporting literacy in multilingual contexts. The prize was accepted by FAPLG Director Michel Karim on behalf of the organization. SIL works in partnership with FAPLG to support language development in the Guera region of Chad.

SIL is committed to providing training and support for language development, including mother tongue literacy and multilingual education, in communities around the world. SIL staff participated in a number of International Literacy Day activities.

  • Dr. Ian Cheffy, a senior literacy and education consultant for SIL, participated in the International Literacy Day Colloquium, the theme of which was “Advancing Towards a Literate 21st Century. Cheffy was a panelist in a session entitled, “What literacies should 21st century citizens have?”

    Cheffy spoke as an advocate for the expansion of literacy opportunities for speakers of the world’s less dominant languages (EGIDS levels 5 and 6a)—more than one billion people. He emphasized the value of both mother tongue literacy and literacy in languages of wider communication.

  • In the Solomon Islands, the Literacy Association of Solomon Islands (LASI) and other organizations joined together for an International Literacy Day celebration. SIL works in partnership with LASI to provide training and consultation for literacy efforts in the island nation.

  • International Relations officers Bill Hampton and Arthur Lightbody participated in an event sponsored by the International Reading Association. “Career Ready Reading: What Employers Need from Schools and How We Can Work Together” was held at Whittemore House in Washington, DC.


International Literacy Day celebration in the Solomon Islands

During celebrations of International Literacy Day in the Solomon Islands, adults and children were invited to write stories that were then compiled into a book for all to see. Participants received a free book of their choosing from the book table.

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