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International Literacy Day is an annual event that celebrates literacy and the importance of reading and writing. International Literacy Day was started in 1966 by UNESCO as a way to promote youth literacy and global understanding through reading. The day also recognises the need for adults to continue learning throughout their lives. It has been observed every year to motivate individuals around the world to read more, improve literacy skills, provide educational opportunities for children who don’t have access to them and foster international cooperation among nations.

When is International Literacy Day?

International Literacy Day falls on the 8th of September each year.

When did International Literacy Day start, and why?

International Literacy Day was proclaimed by UNESCO on the 8th of September 1966 to remind people about how important literacy is for individuals, communities and societies. This issue has been a key component in UN Sustainable Development Goals since 2015 as well as in their 2030 Agenda for sustainable development.

How is literacy linked to employment?

In today’s world, literacy is not just about being able to read and write. It has become a fundamental element of the human experience that has positively impacted many aspects of life. There are numerous benefits of literacy, but one, in particular, is it offers an opportunity to break the cycle of poverty.

The lack of education can significantly impact a child’s potential in life. Education is an investment in the future, but it’s a complicated one. Families living on low incomes often need their children to stop attending school and begin work to supplement household income, limiting access to crucial literacy skills that allow them opportunities outside of unskilled jobs with little progression potential. 

This cycle leads and keeps many families in poverty as they cannot progress beyond these limited wages or provide better life prospects once adults are old enough to enter the job market themselves.

How has COVID-19 impacted young girls and their access to education?

In many developing countries, families cannot afford to send their children to school. Girls often have the responsibility for taking care of family duties and so are unable to attend class as their male peers do. Many girls who were previously going to school now find themselves without education due to the COVID-19 pandemic and this will likely mean they will not return.

It is estimated 11 million girls may never return to school after the pandemic, with many experts fearing that this will reinforce a cycle of violence and poverty that will continue for generations.

Girls and young women face unique challenges in a time of crisis. According to Malala Fund, girls are the first to be removed from school and last to return. Though men are more likely to die of COVID-19 than women on average, studies show that the social and economic fallout from the pandemic is worse for women.

The lack of education, especially for girls in developing countries, can lead to dire consequences. For every 100 boys unable to receive an education there are 123 girls denied the right as well. The UNESCO Institute for Statistics tells us that “for these children a future without opportunity beckons”. Girls who do not finish school often get married before they’re ready and face violence or higher numbers of pregnancies.

What are some International Literacy Day activities?

There are many ways you can celebrate International Literacy Day in your community and we’ve chosen a few to showcase below:

Donate books

Do you have any books that need a new home? Consider donating them to your local school library. Add to the catalogue of a child’s school library and help them escape reality with a captivating fiction story or explore the world and expand their mind with a non-fiction read.

Start your own community book club

Why not take inspiration from International Literacy Day and start your book club? Book clubs are a great way to meet new people and learn about different perspectives plus can be done in person or online. They can also be the perfect place for you to find your next favourite book!

Host a morning tea

Whether you host one in the office or decide to organise something at home, morning teas are simple to organise and a fantastic way to catch up for a good cause. Guests can simply donate on the day and share a bite to eat. Learn more about community fundraising for ChildFund.

Donate to ChildFund 

This International Literacy Day you can donate to our Girls’ Education appeal or donate a School Supplies Set for a child.

For more information on how you can help make a difference in the lives of many children living in poverty around the world, you can check out our current Appeals or learn more about making a monthly donation.

Thank you from ChildFund Australia

Together, we’ve created positive change for children and young people around the world despite the ongoing adversity that many families and communities continue to face.

Your commitment has enabled ChildFund and our local partners to support children and young people to be as safe, healthy, and educated as possible.

By Margaret Sheehan,
CEO ChildFund Australia

Scroll down to read more on how your support has helped make a difference for children this past year.

Donations from ChildFund Australia’s committed network of supporters have been vital to helping children and young people access health care, and a quality education. They have also funded initiatives such as ChildFund’s SwipeSafe online safety program, and Papua New Guinea’s helpline for survivors of violence.

In times of conflict or disaster, people in Australia have come together to provide food for displaced families and safe spaces for children.

Below are just some of the ways that your donations have made a positive difference this past year. Thank you for creating a better world for children and young people everywhere!

Emergency food and water for families 

Severe drought, conflict, and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic led to more than 4 million people in Kenya in need of emergency food assistance in 2022. More than a million children and mothers were malnourished and urgently needed food and water.

Teso and her family lost dozens of camels and goats – which they relied on for income and food – from ongoing drought in Marsabit County, northern Kenya, where they live.

Teso’s three-year-old daughter Kabale became malnourished because the family could not afford enough food to eat. “Many, many times we would be hungry all day and night,” Teso said.

Through the donations of thousands of supporters like you, ChildFund Kenya was able to provide Kabale with meals of nutrient-dense porridge to treat her malnutrition.
Teso and her family also received food and cooking supplies, such as cooking oil, maize, beans and rice. They also received a transfer of emergency cash, which Teso used to buy milk and extra food for Kabale.
The support was enough to turn things around. “The food we got was a relief for our family because we couldn’t afford to buy food,” Teso said. “It has helped to improve Kabale’s weight and health.”

During the drought, ChildFund also worked with local partner organisations to help families access clean water. Water facilities such as boreholes and wells in communities were upgraded, water trucks were arranged for schools, and families received water purifiers. Farming families also received livestock feed to help keep their animals alive.

In Ukraine, donations provided displaced children and their families with food, medicine, and shelter. Response efforts led by ChildFund Alliance members, WeWorld and ChildFund Deutschland, in Ukraine and neighbouring countries, have reached more than 110,000 people to date. In Moldova, more than 3,000 Ukrainian children have access to safe spaces where they can play, learn, and experience a sense of stability. This support has been so important for children during times of great distress.

Better nutrition for a better childhood

In Sri Lanka, children and their families experienced devastating food shortages and rising living costs. The result was many children going hungry, and ongoing shortages led to malnutrition.

In response, community kitchens were set up in villages. These kitchens were run by dedicated mothers and volunteers, with food and equipment supplied by ChildFund Sri Lanka. They fed families at risk of hunger in their community by providing large, healthy, and well-balanced meals three times a week. Children up to 5 years old were given priority for the nutritious meals.

Mothers leading the kitchen shared valuable knowledge to other parents about how to prepare healthy meals for their children at home. Families attending the kitchens also received seeds, equipment, and training to start their own fruit and vegetable gardens. While the current focus is on dealing with the immediate food scarcity, these skills and knowledge are assisting families into the future.

Mother-of-five and volunteer Nilanti says the community kitchens were a “pillar of strength” during a tough period. “I don’t know where we would have got our meals from if the kitchens weren't here,” she said.
Nilanti's youngest child, two-year-old Shenu, was at risk of becoming malnourished when the community kitchens started.
The family were struggling to earn enough income and could only afford basic foods.
Nilanti used the seeds and equipment she received at the community kitchens to grow a fruit and vegetable garden at home.
Today, Nilanti and her family's garden is flourishing with tomatoes, bitter gourd, beans, leafy greens, and more!
With the meals from the community kitchen and the fruit and vegetables from the garden, Shenu now has a more balanced diet and is healthier. “Her weight increased 600 grams in just a month!” Nilanti said. “I'm overjoyed.”

Making school accessible for all children

Fifteen-year-old Seila* (pictured below) from Battambang Province in Cambodia wants to be a teacher. “I want future generations, especially children living with a disability, to benefit from education like I have,” he said.

Seila has difficulty walking and sleeping because of pain in his hip. He developed a cyst on his hip when he was nine years old and while it was removed, the pain never went away.

Over time it prevented him from walking or riding his bike to school, a 10-kilometre journey from his home. Without alternative transport, Seila sometimes missed class and fell behind in his studies.

However, Seila was able to undergo a second surgery to correct his hip pain and a new leg brace has enabled him to attend school.
Today, he is hopeful about the future and a step closer to his goal of becoming a teacher. “Now that I’m going to school regularly, I’m doing better at my studies,” he said. “I placed sixth out of 28 students this year.”

Children living with a disability are among the most marginalised groups in Cambodia and across the world. Negative social attitudes towards disability in communities often lead to children missing out on an education.

ChildFund Cambodia and local partners, Khmer NGO for Education and the Cambodian Disabled People’s Organization, are working with families and communities to improve the lives of more than 360 children living with a disability.

ChildFund has helped to provide disability aids and equipment, create inclusive learning environments, and change discriminatory attitudes towards disabilities. Teachers are learning how to include children who live with a disability in the classroom, and parents and community leaders are learning how to overcome social stigma and advocate for the needs of their children.

Stigma and attitudes towards disabilities in the community are now starting to change. “My friends know more about my disability and how to support me,” Seila said. “They encourage me to attend class every day. They tell me not to give up because I can achieve anything anyone else can.”

Seila’s community is leading the way on a Disability Empowerment and Education project supported by ChildFund. The project aims to provide children living with a disability with basic rights, including access to health care, education, and the opportunity to contribute to their community.

Thank you for creating a better world for children

We couldn’t do it without you!

The inspiring commitment of thousands of people like you, families, businesses, and the Australian government has made all this, and so much more, possible for children and young people living in poverty.
Thank you for believing every child needs a childhood and contributing to a better world.
Together, we can support more children and young people to say: “I am safe. I am educated. I contribute. I have a future.”