UN International Literacy Day

UN International Literacy Day

Knowing how to read and write is a very important factor in most people’s lives. But some people never learn these skills. How can we make sure that everybody gets the opportunity to become literate?

Do the preparation task first. Then read the article and do the exercises.


Have you ever travelled to a country with a language that you don’t speak? If so, perhaps you had trouble understanding the most basic things: signs, instructions, documents, packaging. Maybe you felt quite powerless. This is just a simple example that gives us a small idea of how hard life must be for a person who is unable to read. Illiteracy is a major problem around the world. To acknowledge the huge efforts of people working in this field, the United Nations celebrates International Literacy Day every 8 September.

What is UN International Literacy Day?

Since 1967, this annual celebration has brought attention to people in the world who don’t know how to read or write. It highlights ways to combat this problem and the huge progress that has been made. Every 8 September, UNESCO holds an awards ceremony in Paris in which prizes are given to individuals and organisations who work hard to increase literacy around the world.

How big is the problem?

It is estimated that around 14 per cent of the global population is illiterate. Within that statistic, there is some good news and some bad news. On a positive note, the levels of illiteracy have fallen a lot in recent decades (in just 1980, world illiteracy was at 43 per cent!). However, there are still enormous differences between regions. In sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia, illiteracy remains around 30 per cent.

What are the consequences of illiteracy?

There is a strong connection between illiteracy and poverty. People who can read and write have an enormous advantage over those who can’t when it comes to studying and training. This means that literate people generally earn more money and even enjoy better health. The UN also reports more negative attitudes towards women in societies with lower literacy levels.

What is the situation for women and girls?

A study by the UN showed that almost 83 per cent of women and girls are able to read and write. However, two-thirds of all illiterate people in the world are female. This problem is due to factors such as insufficient educational opportunities for girls or the tradition in some countries for girls to get married at a young age. Many organisations work to try to empower women and girls by teaching them literacy skills.

What is the situation for men and boys?

The same UN study showed that, internationally, 90 per cent of men and boys are able to read and write. However, in many Western countries, girls generally show better literacy than boys. Experts suggest that this is due to education techniques which don’t always suit boys, as well as the opinion among some boys that reading and writing are ‘girly’ things to do.      

How is technology changing things?

In the digital era, learning to read and write has become more accessible, with the internet and the popularity of devices like computers and smartphones. UNESCO suggests that literacy has become more important than ever as the world changes towards ‘knowledge-based societies’ which depend on communication rather than creating physical products.

What is the future of literacy?

Some experts argue that we need to change our idea of literacy. These days, knowing how to read is a limited skill if the same person doesn’t know how to use a computer or smartphone. Some suggest that we need to expand the idea of literacy to include skills such as knowing how to use a web browser, create a document on a computer or even send a text message by phone.

How can I participate?

Many libraries and universities organise events to celebrate International Literacy Day, often inviting famous writers to participate. Check out #LiteracyDay on social media to see what’s happening in your region.

Task 1

Task 2


Worksheet101.47 KB

Language level


Average: 3.9 (7 votes)

Submitted by Pharm_Mohammad on Sat, 05/09/2020 - 09:02

It is hard to determine the effective way to learn a language, as people preferences are different and it is hard to limiting ourselves in one way of learning. Technology such as internet has introduced many benefits to humanity in terms of facilitating the learning process. This website, Learn English British Council, is a wonderful example. At the same time, we have to ensure that the users of internet are able to use computers first as the new term of literacy has included computer skills to be part of learning process. So, if anyone wants to learn a new language, either to read or write, by using internet, he or she must to have the basic skills in using computers in the beginning before starting introduce themselves into another language. On the other hand, some people find going to language teaching centers or travelling abroad to study is the most practical way to gain the knowledge they want. It is the tendency of people at the end. Overall, learning different languages by using technology is useful, however, it requires the one to know the basic skills of how to operate the computer devices. But some learners prefer to study at cultural centers or overseas to get the most of the language.

Submitted by Min Htet Kaung on Wed, 12/08/2020 - 16:04

I think the best way to learn to read and write in a different language is to accept teaching by native speaker or the one who ia proficient in this language. As today is the age of technology, there are other ways such as studying via google.
Profile picture for user OlaIELTS

Submitted by OlaIELTS on Sat, 06/06/2020 - 04:50

The best way to read and write is through communication which depends on knowledge-based societies.

Submitted by parisaach on Wed, 18/09/2019 - 05:38

Today there are many websites and application which help prople to learn a new language, you can easily use these websites or applications, specially when you are literate. Besides traditional methods of learning still are very helpful you can go to a class or help a private teacher to teach you faster and more practical. I took a French course many years a go and recently I tried to continue learning French language from websites. The busuu website really helped me to improve my French language skills. I also install busuu application on my phone to more easily use it. One of the good websites for learning English and improve my English skills is British council. I used to go to English courses all year round, but I stopped learning English for many years, and now I start learning English again, from British council website. I visit the website everyday and enjoy the podcasts. One of the benefit of using these podcasts is , besides helping to learn English you learn many other things too.

Submitted by Alireza313 on Mon, 09/09/2019 - 14:06

In my country the literacy is one of the most important factor if you want to sign for a job.It is not enough but it is neccesary.
Profile picture for user Anaitat

Submitted by Anaitat on Wed, 04/09/2019 - 15:38

To my mind the best way to learn to read and write in a different language is to begin with alphabet and pronunciation, then join grammar and vocabulary. It is very important to practice language daily: to drill, to listen to radio and music, to read texts, newsletters and books basing on the ancestral principle ‘Repetitio est mater studiorum’.

Submitted by gullıstan on Thu, 21/02/2019 - 17:06

I am a teacher. I was in Germany a short time ago. but I don't know German. I've never felt that not knowing the language is a terrible feeling. go to the market, ask directions, was very difficult. at the first opportunity I decided to learn the language. therefore, as soon as I returned to my country, I was immediately enrolled in an English course. The most beautiful way of learning the language is to study the daily course and think it is a practice of continuous listening and speaking.