Saturday, September 8, 2012

September 8 - UNESCO International Literacy Day

In its 30-day span, the month of September is graced with various holidays...Labor Day, Patriot Day, Grandparents' Day, and of course, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

This morning, while doing my usual morning internet-surf, I learned for the first time that today is UNESCO International Literacy Day.

I'm so glad to see that this issue, spearheaded by the United Nations, has taken its place as a seriously-recognized global issue.

In my usual excited, jump-in-head-first style, I've done a preliminary Google search, and have come up with a few websites. Of course, they are now among my personal bookmarks: UNESCO stands for United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. On its masthead, the site declares: "Building Peace in the Minds of Men and Women."

Another is, and the home page contained this challenge: "Spend the day participating in a readathon, kicking off a cross-grade reading buddy program, or making original books to share with others in the community. For additional ideas, visit the IRA's collection of ideas: Idea Starters! International Literacy Day Activities and Events."

Peace and collective and individual empowerment through education! This is by no means a new concept, but it continues to need emphasis, both here in the U.S. and throughout the world.

Looking at the population close to my own heart, I hope literacy campaigns will not neglect the senior population. Again, I want to stress that the statistic below is based on my very cursory internet search. It compels me to do more research, and incorporate findings into my services for the "midlife and beyond" population:

On the site, I found this:

"Seniors and the elderly over age 65 had the lowest average literacy scores of any age range, with 64 percent performing in the Basic and Below Basic levels."

Can anyone of us imagine the challenges of someone not being able to read a bus schedule, doctor's instructions, or a prescription bottle? And that's just a few of the circumstances contributing to the vulnerability of our elder population. What about those who trustingly let scam artists into their homes, and then "just sign here" when presented with some slickly rushed, confusing sales contract? How frightening!

Yesterday, I saw a Facebook image for ONE Generation, showing an elderly man reading a book to some youngsters. It broke my heart recently when I had an elderly client say that he has hid his illiteracy from almost everyone, all his life. He has to create elaborate excuses when his grandchildren come over and clamor to have him read to them. What sad barriers his inability to read has created around him.

In this election year, with all the massively pressing issues facing our community, our nation, and our world, let's take literacy seriously for everyone.
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