In 1965, UNESCO proclaimed September 8 as International Literacy Day, which aims to highlight the importance of literacy throughout the world, on both an individual and societal level. “Literacy is a human right, a tool of personal empowerment and a means for social and human development. Educational opportunities depend on literacy.” [Source: UNESCO] While there are many initiatives undertaken by governments, communities, and individuals themselves, illiteracy remains a global issue. As of 2014, 781 million adults and 126 million youths are illiterate, unable to read or write a simple sentence. Although literacy rates continue to rise, females still lag behind males in literacy rates, with those in developing countries having lower literacy rates on the whole. All United Nations Member States have pledged that by 2015, children everywhere will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling [Source: UIS UNESCO]. Education is the best way to alleviate poverty, leading to a sustainable future. This year’s theme of International Literacy Day is “Literacy and Sustainable Development”. Some initiatives undertaken to combat illiteracy:

  • ISESCO appeals to the Muslim World to address the rising illiteracy rates in Islamic countries, where illiteracy rates range between 40% in males and 65% in females. [Source: IESCO]
  • The government of Nepal has put a major focus on literacy, to great success: the literacy rate has increased from 65% in 2011 to an amazing 84% by 2014. [Source: The World Bank]
  • The African Library Project builds libraries to improve literacy and education, using books to increase literacy by cultivating an interest in reading. [Source: African Library Project]
  • In Houston, Texas, one school district developed a secondary reading initiative, helping the 40% of incoming ninth-graders who struggled with reading. [Source: Chron]

ReadSpeaker aims to combat illiteracy by offering a tool to listen to text. Listening to text has been shown to improve comprehension and recollection, but at the same time, can also assist those who have difficulty reading. Those looking to improve their literacy skills can read along with the audio, gaining access to information previously unattainable.