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Letter of the Day | Literacy is a fundamental human right

Published:Thursday | February 2, 2023 | 12:42 AM


The power of reading is infectious. Once a student takes ownership of the keys to reading a total transformation begins. Unfortunately, there are millions of people globally who have yet to experience this human right. According to The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), only a third of 10-year-olds globally are estimated to be able to read and understand a simple written story. These statistics are extremely worrying and speak to the dire state of affairs globally regarding reading skills. UNICEF adds that the rest, around two-thirds or 64 per cent, are unable to cover this marker for minimum proficiency in reading comprehension. This is up from 52 per cent pre-pandemic. UNICEF warns of the global education crisis and the need for urgent actions.

According to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), there are more than 775 million adults who lack basic literacy skills. And, in low-income countries, one in five children does not have access to education. Literacy is a fundamental human right, and World Read Aloud Day reminds us that every child deserves the chance to learn to read and write. World Read Aloud Day (WRAD) is a global advocacy commemoration which aims to empower, support and encourage reading aloud and celebrate the power of literacy. Reading is critical to the development of language and communication. Reading is more than just word recognition. Reading involves comprehension, fluency and automaticity of the material being read.

World Read Aloud Day is celebrated on the first Wednesday in February and took place on February 1 this year. This is a day dedicated not just to reading, but to the art and practice of reading aloud. Jamaica, like many societies with a post-colonial past, has a rich and untapped oral history. Stories were passed down from generation to generation even before writing was invented. Oral forms of storytelling were the earliest way of preserving human knowledge, insight, and creativity. World Read Aloud Day helps us bring this tradition back to reading while promoting literacy.

As the international community observes World Read Aloud Day we must show solidarity to the women of Afghanistan who have been barred from accessing an education by an all-male government. The international community must continue to engage and pressure the Taliban regime in order for the government to reverse this order which prevents girls from age 12 from attending school.