September 2015: World's largest petition is delivered to world leaders

Project Literacy launches campaign on behalf of 750m people who can’t read or sign their name  

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Project Literacy launches campaign on behalf of people who can’t read or sign their name  

World’s largest ever petition is delivered to world leaders at United Nations General Assembly

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Project Literacy launches campaign on behalf of 750m people who can’t read or sign their name

00:00 SEPTEMBER 29, NEW YORK – Today sixteen organisations and charities joined Pearson, the world's leading learning company, in announcing their commitment to Project Literacy. The project has one clear goal: to raise awareness of and tackle the global problem of illiteracy, which affects one in ten people alive today and costs the world $1.19 trillion a year.

To mark the announcement, Project Literacy today carried the world’s largest-ever petition to the United Nations Headquarters in New York, where 193 global leaders are this week attending the UN General Assembly. This petition calls upon the world’s leaders to acknowledge the urgency of the international illiteracy crisis and pledge to take meaningful action to address it.

The petition, which can be found at, was created on behalf of the 750 million people around the world who cannot read, two thirds (63%) of whom are women.  That is 11% of the world’s population, more than the population of Europe. 115 million children and youths are classified as illiterate, with 59% of these being young women.[i]

Kate James, spokesperson for Project Literacy and Chief Corporate Affairs Officer at Pearson said:

“The curse of illiteracy is global and devastating. It is the root cause of our most pressing global problems - if you see inequality, poverty and disease, you’re seeing its impact. Economically, illiteracy costs more than a trillion dollars every year.  When the world is determined to pull people out of poverty and set them on a road to prosperity, this statistic needs to change, urgently.”

David Risher, Project Literacy partner and CEO of San Francisco-based literacy organisation Worldreader, said:

“We are calling on people and nations to work together to build a more literate world in which every individual is empowered to succeed, progress and flourish.  Together, we will make significant and sustainable advances in literacy over the next five years so that by 2030, no child will be born at risk of poor literacy.”

Illiteracy is a truly global problem[ii]:

  • No country has ever achieved continued economic growth without having first achieved an adult literacy rate above 40%.
  • Illiteracy costs a developed nation 2% of its GDP each year and an emerging economy 1.2% of GDP.
  • 32 million adults in the United States can’t read. And one in four children grow up without learning how to read.
  • More than 70% of inmates in American prisons cannot read above fourth grade level (typically 9-10 years old).
  • 1 in 5 UK children leave primary school unable to read or write.
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, the number of illiterate adults has increased by 37% since 1990.
  • In India, 287 million people do not have basic reading skills.
  • The rate of violent crimes such as homicide, sexual assaults and robbery are almost double among the illiterate population.
  • Today 520 million women and girls are illiterate, denying them access to learn, earn, vote and thrive.

People and organisations wanting to help bring the power of words to the world can join the movement in many ways, from signing the petition ( online and sharing #projectliteracy to raise awareness to volunteering or donating to any of the organisations involved with the campaign.

You can sign the Project Literacy petition at


About Project Literacy

Project Literacy is a global campaign convened by Pearson to make significant and sustainable advances in the fight against illiteracy so that all people - regardless of geography, language, race, class, or gender – have the opportunity to fulfill their potential through the power of words. Official partners include: Worldreader, Room to Read, GOOD Magazine, Reading Partners, BookAid, BookTrust, 826National, Jumpstart, First Book, Raising A Reader, Reading is Fundamental, Reach out and Read, Asia Foundation, We Need Diverse Books, Read for My School, and the National Literacy Trust.





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