September 2016: Global Stars Unite on International Literacy Day

26 Voices, 26 Causes, One Goal: End Illiteracy

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Julianne Moore joins Project Literacy to raise awareness of illiteracy

NEW YORK, September 8, 2016 - To celebrate the 50th anniversary of International Literacy Day, 26 of the world’s most high profile personalities from film, music, politics and the arts, have joined forces to raise awareness for literacy with one common goal in mind: by 2030, no child will be born at risk of poor literacy.

Today, 32 million American adults cannot read and one in four children grow up without learning how to read. Globally, the numbers are even more staggering. One in 10 people on the planet are unable to read and write. Yet many do not realize that illiteracy is more than the inability to read a good book. It is the root cause of almost every major problem humanity faces today. 

To clearly demonstrate how illiteracy contributes to larger socioeconomic problems, the “Alphabet of Illiteracy” was created by Project Literacy - a movement convened by founding partner, Pearson and backed by 40 charities and education organizations, including UNESCO, The Clinton Foundation, Microsoft and the World Literacy Foundation.

The Alphabet of Illiteracy is a new body of evidence that outlines decades worth of research demonstrating that illiteracy can contribute towards reduced life expectancy, radicalization, the spread of disease and violent crime.

Dr. Dan Wagner, UNESCO Chair in Learning and Literacy at the University of Pennsylvania, said: “There is a strong argument that tackling illiteracy and low literacy, as a ‘foundational’ social problem, would pay greater dividends than tackling each issue separately.”
In the Alphabet of Illiteracy, A is for AIDs, because if you can’t read or write, you are five times less likely to understand how people can contract HIV. B is for bloodshed because the rate of violent crimes such as homicide and sexual assaults is almost double among the illiterate population. C is for child brides, because if all women had a primary education, child marriages would reduce by a sixth. To view the full Alphabet of Illiteracy, visit

From Emma Watson to Julianne Moore, 26 champions of literacy across the globe are elevating this issue and serving as advocates for change through a mass social media movement. Each advocate has adopted a letter from the Alphabet of Illiteracy that corresponds to a social cause they are passionate about. Their synchronized unique messages of support on Twitter will create a powerful wave of socially-driven awareness, designed to spur people into action around literacy.

“Literacy is a fundamental human right, enshrined by the United Nations. We have made so much progress on so many important causes, from poverty to the spread of infectious disease, and, of course, on gender equality. Yet there is still so much work to do, because without literacy as a basis for learning, we will always eventually hit a brick wall. Raising awareness of how teaching people to read and write can help change the world is critical” said actress and activist, Emma Watson. 

Kate James, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer for Pearson and spokesperson for Project Literacy, said: “Illiteracy is a global challenge and we all need to pull together if we are to combat its devastating impact. Our hope is that Project Literacy will provide the umbrella for a global coalition of non-profit organizations, businesses, and government who together can ensure literacy helps solve some of the world's most pressing problems.”

To mark the U.S. launch of the campaign, Project Literacy has taken to the streets of New York to create a stunning piece of interactive artwork in TriBeCa that showcases messages of support reproduced into pencils. The “Mighty Pencil” exhibit physically illustrates the power of reading and writing and how it can help change the world for the better. The exhibit is open to the public to celebrate International Literacy Day.

To get involved, visit and share a message of support, donate to one of Project Literacy’s 26 charity partners or sign a petition. 

About Project Literacy 
Project Literacy is a global campaign founded and 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, Microsoft, the National Literacy Trust, the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, UNESCO, Unreasonable Group, CENPEC, Results for Development, the Center for Knowledge Societies, War Child, Lessons for Life, Doctors of the World, World Literacy Foundation, 28 Too Many, WomanKind, The Big Issue, The Hunger Project, Nutrition and Education International, and Veerni.

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