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Project Literacy is a global campaign dedicated to building partnerships and driving action that brings the power of words to the world by 2030.

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Credit: World Bank

Evidence that low cost reading programs can have a big impact

The importance of literacy for economic growth and development is already well established in economic research.  Literacy enables people to access information and improve their productivity.  I believe that literacy is crucial to the diffusion of new technologies, especially among the poor. It produces high economic returns, so much so that early literacy is viewed as a threshold for economic development. Previously, I blogged about an innovative program (implemented by the World Bank and financed by the Global Partnership for Education) in Papua New Guinea (PNG) – known as READ PNG – where reading outcomes increased by 0.51 standard deviations--- a substantial increase, given its cost of $60 per student. In 2010, the READ PNG program contained an early grade reading assessment of young elementary school students.  It revealed...
26 July
Credit: Reading is Fundamental

Reading is Fundamental is helping students beat the 'Summer slide'

  Some of my favorite childhood memories don’t spring from my own childhood at all; they are borrowed from the pages of books. I waited for spring with Frog and Toad, helped deliver Grandmother’s kiss to Little Bear, and walked to school along the beach in Provincetown on The Day the Whale Came to My Town. I had a lovely childhood on its own, but when amended by the tales on my bookshelf, it was all the more rich, filled with mystery, adventure and most important, learning.   But then, I was fortunate. Many American children don’t have access to books, let alone shelves full of them. Two-thirds of the 16 million children living in poverty in this country don’t own any books, so when school lets out for the year, reading and learning does not just take a vacation, it deteriorates. This deterioration is known as “summer learning loss,” or “summer slide,” and it is...
25 July
Students at Challenger Elementary School taking part in a Get Lit theatre group. Credit: Get Lit

Theater Brings Literacy to Life for Kids

When teachers and staff at Challenger Elementary School in Huntsville, Alabama identified third-grade reading and writing as an area of improvement, they didn’t turn to reading specialists or double down on vocabulary lists. Instead, they applied for a grant through the Alabama State Council on the Arts and brought in a collaborating artist from Fantasy Playhouse Children’s Theater, a local theater.    Over the course of a month, each third-grade class created a 10-minute play about a different Native American tribe. The project integrated social studies, writing, public speaking, and more. Students researched, wrote, and rehearsed the plays, as well as created props and costumes with help from parents. In February, the students performed the plays to an audience of parents and fellow students.   “[The students] turned into our teachers as we learned about...
12 July
Smarter classrooms help kids learn more and stay in school longer. Credit: GOOD

Want To Keep More Kids In School? Design A Smarter Classroom

At Codman Academy Charter Public School in Dorchester, Massachusetts, students from kindergarten on up struggle with trauma caused by homelessness, violence, or emotional or sexual abuse. Three quarters of the student body qualify for free or reduced lunches, and 98 percent are people of color, according to the school’s website. It’s tempting to assume, then, that these classrooms would be filled with distracted and disinterested students on the verge of dropping out. Yet Codman's attendance rate averages 96 percent (even higher than the statewide average of 95 percent). That high level of student engagement may be at least partially due to the school’s new Lithgow Building, which opened last August. The historic building was renovated with a trauma-informed design that houses the school’s lower and middle grades. “In many...
16 June
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Credit: US Department of Education

This Revolutionary Non-Profit is Breaking the Generational Poverty Cycle

Imagine you’re four years old. Your life so far has been unstable to say the least. Your father is incarcerated; your mother is struggling with addiction and largely absent. You and your siblings have been living in foster care. Soon you’ll move in with your grandmother, though she doesn’t know how she’ll support you and your four siblings.   What does your life look like from here? This was where Natasha found herself at such a young age. She remembers her childhood as one where full diapers were often left unattended, strangers frequented the couch, and food on the table was...
30 June
2015 International Literacy Prize winners. Image credit: UNESCO

UNESCO Launches the 2016 International Literacy Prizes

Since 1967, UNESCO International Literacy Prizes have rewarded excellence and innovation in the field of literacy. Over 470 projects and programmes undertaken by governments, non-governmental organizations and individuals around the world have been recognized. Through these prestigious Prizes, UNESCO seeks to support effective literacy practices and encourages the promotion of dynamic literate societies. Currently there are two UNESCO International Literacy Prizes: The UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize (2 awards) Established in 1989, with the support of the Government of the...
09 June
Doctors of the World provides healthcare to vulnerable people, wherever we're needed most.

Q&A: Doctors of the World

Doctors of the World braves all obstacles to provide urgent medical care to those in need. One of the barriers they face is illiteracy. We caught up with Professor Christopher Bulstrode to find out what it takes to be a volunteer in humanitarian emergencies. What is it that you do with Doctors of the World?  I volunteer to go as a doctor to places which have a medical emergency. What does literacy mean to you? Literacy opens doors to what other people in the world are thinking and doing. What is the most important piece of literature to you? At the moment it is the daily...
03 June
The aedes aegypti mosquito carries both yellow fever and dengue. Credit: Flickr user Sanofi Pasteur

The Best Bet For Stopping Outbreaks Isn’t Just A Vaccine

In a series of events and missteps that are starkly reminiscent of the beginnings of the ebola virus outbreak in West Africa, Angola is now grappling with a worrying outbreak of yellow yever, the worst in three decades, which is spreading like wildfire throughout the region and has already claimed nearly 300 lives since December of last year, with another 2,900 people reportedly infected. Cases have already been reported in Kenya and even China, carried by Chinese nationals returning from Africa, and the World Health Organization (WHO) warns that the virus is likely...
26 May

The Hunger Project's Adult Literacy Program Is Giving Students A Second Chance In Mozambique

  Fátima Filimonecossa, a 55 year-old married mother, has three sons. She was born in Gaza Province and she lives in Zuza village with her husband, sons, grandchildren and daughters-in-law. She is a student in adult literacy in a class of 32 students (29 women and three men). Fatima shares with us her story of change. “I am a farmer and I always practiced agriculture in upland as means of income generation. The good thing that has happened in my life was the fact that my village had become part of an epicenter created by The Hunger Project-Mozambique. With the...
25 May

How A Love Of Reading Helped This Woman Go From Homeless to Harvard

It’s difficult not to be dazzled by the accomplishments of Connie Chung. The 38-year-old is a published author with a bachelor’s degree from UC-Berkeley and three graduate degrees from Harvard—two master’s and a doctorate of education. Given her academic prowess, one might be surprised to find that Chung spent six years of her youth homeless and alone on the streets of Los Angeles. At the time, Chung was in the throes of adolescence, and she recalls that school was one of the few places she could rely on for stability. And it’s a good thing she did; Chung...
06 May

Inside stories from a prison book group

“Katniss is a bad-arsed bitch,” says Seamus, a library orderly at HMP Thameside, an all-male, category B prison in south-east London. “I like a strong-minded woman. She reminds me of my mother.” Seamus is showing me around HMP Thameside’s library. As we walk, we talk books: he talks about The Hunger Games, reveals he is also a fan of Harry Potter. I ask him what he thinks of JK Rowling’s heroine. He grins, tells me he wants to call his daughter Hermione. If a book can start a conversation, then just think what can spring from a whole library. As we mourn and fight the closure of many of...
03 May
The latest report from the National Literacy Trust shows how kids' attitudes towards reading are changing

National Literacy Trust's 'Children’s and Young People’s Reading in 2015' Report

Each year, The National Literacy Trust conducts research into the attitudes towards reading of young people across the UK. This important work helps to understand the impact that parents, teachers and carers have on the awareness, belief and impact of the importance of literacy in building a successful future. This year, The National Literacy Trust, in its sixth annual survey, spoke to 32,569 children and young people. Their research reveals a gulf in reading enjoyment and attitudes between primary and secondary schoolers. The Children’s and Young People’s Reading in 2015 Report...
28 April
Children in remote parts of Africa are accessing entire libraries through e-readers. Credit: Worldreader

Books and E-readers: Inspiring Africa’s Next Generation

At an event at London Book Fair this month, Book Aid International and Worldreader, two of the most active charities providing books and resources to the most remote and underprivileged parts of Africa, discussed how print and e-books are being used together to inspire young readers across the continent. In Sub-Saharan Africa, just over 71% of youth are literate, while only 35% of all homes have access to electricity. With such a large population, this means there are over 250 million primary school age children that are illiterate, limiting the opportunities and potential futures for a...
20 April
The Hafiznagar slum in Assam, India. Credit: Sarita Santoshini

These Kids In India Are Saving Others From A Life Of Child Slavery

  In Assam, India, 12-year-old Sahidul Ali returned from school with a big grin on his face and headed straight to the office of Universal Team for Social Action and Help (UTSAH), a local NGO. Holding a certificate and wearing a shiny gold medal around his neck, Ali announced that he’d finished second in a 100 meter race. He was immediately embraced in hugs and cajoled into posing for several phone cameras, including this writer’s. After spending some time narrating his victory, he walked across the road into a narrow lane and across a number of railway tracks. There, in one of...
18 April
Lurene Wright teaches a Jamaican Foundation for Life Long Learning class. Credit: Rebekah Kebede

Former Jamaican ‘Gangster’ Says Literacy May Be the Best Way to Fight Crime

Growing up in Bob Marley’s Trench Town neighborhood, David Chang always knew what he wanted to be when he grew up. “I wanted to become a badman. That was my dream,” Chang says. And he did, although his career as a “badman” (Jamaican slang for “gangster”) was short-lived. At age 22, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter in a robbery gone wrong and spent eight years being bars. And that’s when he learned an unexpected new skill: how to read. Chang, 48, understands firsthand how illiteracy affects job prospects and creates frustrations. Twenty-two percent of Jamaican teens...
31 March
Target's clearly legible prescription labels were designed by a School of Visual Arts graduate—and they’re the exception in the United States. Credit: Flickr user Bart.

Our Prescription Labels Aren’t Just Confusing. They’re Dangerous.

Think about your most recent prescription medication bottle. The colors, symbols, fonts, and information contained there each served a specific purpose. But was that information understandable? For many people, it’s not. Half of U.S. patients don't understand the health information they receive, according to an estimate by the American Medical Association. The average American reads at an eighth-grade level, whereas most healthcare information, including labels on prescriptions, is written for college graduates. And that doesn't even take into consideration people who struggle...
29 March
Members of the Twelve Tribes group live as a collective. Credit: Twelve Tribes

This Woman Was Raised By a Notorious Cult. Here’s How She Finally Got Away.

For many of us, cults are a remnant of the 60s or an interesting cultural oddity worthy of a send-up from Tina Fey. But for survivors, cults are all too real—and all too common. While it’s impossible to keep track of how many people are involved with cults around the world because of their secretive nature, the International Cultic Studies Association estimates that at least 2.5 million Americans have joined cults over the past 40 years, and many of them went on to raise children in those organizations. Cults are just one of many kinds of radical groups worldwide,...
16 March
Project Literacy ambassador Lily Cole speak to CNN's Richard Quest. Credit: CNN

Project Literacy Ambassador, Lily Cole speaks to CNN International

Global Ambassador of Project Literacy, Lily Cole has appeared on CNN to discuss the impact illiteracy is having on gender inequality. Speaking to CNN’S Richard Quest on his Quest Means Business show the day after International Women’s Day, Lily Cole draws on the Alphabet of Illiteracy to show how increasing literacy levels across the globe can help close the gender gap. Two weeks previously, Lily Cole appeared in the UK parliament to call on world leaders to urgently tackle the global illiteracy crisis, which as Lily tells CNN, affects 757 million people in the world, two thirds of...
10 March
Young girls are given the chance to finish their education as part of the Veerni Project. Credit: The Veerni Project

Here’s What Happens When Child Brides Go to School

Shanno*, a chirpy 15-year-old 10th grader, is nervous about her upcoming board examination. If she does well, she’ll be on her way to fulfilling her dream of becoming a bank manager one day. But just a few years ago, Shanno would never have presumed to hold such ambitions. She didn’t even know if she’d be able to receive a secondary education. Like many other villages near Jodhpur, a city in the western Indian state of Rajasthan, the hamlet she calls home—Meghwalon Ki Dhani—has only a single government primary school, which Shanno describes as being below standard. “I could not read much...
09 March
More than 1 million STDs are acquired every single day. Credit: @GOOD

The Surprising Reason Some Teens Don’t Know Enough About Sex Ed

When you don’t have access to high-quality sex education, learning about sexual health becomes like a game of whispers: facts get distorted, passing misconceptions from person to person. Low levels of literacy and poor education skills just compound the problem. And, unfortunately, misinformation isn’t the only thing that spreads. Around the world, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are a major problem, with more than 1 million of them acquired every single day. In a 2015 report, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) stated that rates of the most common STDS—...
02 March