International Literacy Day falls on Sept. 8 every year. According to the International Reading Association, the day is intended to renew the commitment of literacy professionals and leaders to those in the world who lack hope and opportunity because of their lack of education, including — and these numbers will bowl you over — "an estimated 860 million adults (two thirds of whom are women) who cannot read or write and more that 100 million children, again the majority female, who lack access to school." (My emphasis, the association's words.)
The event gained prominence in 1966, when the World Conference of Ministers of Education on the Eradication of Illiteracy took place in Tehran, Iran, beginning on Sept. 8. The following year, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) proclaimed the date International Literacy Day kicked off the event's first official observance.
Some interesting literacy statistics collected by the International Reading Association:
- The per capita income in countries with a literacy rate less than 55% averages about $600.
- Teaching mothers to read can lead to a decrease in infant mortality of up to 50%.
- 98% of all non-literates live in developing countries.
- 52% of all non-literates live in India and China.
- Africa as a continent has a literacy rate of less than 60%.
- In all developing countries, the percentage of children aged 6-11 not attending school is 15%. In the least developed countries, it is 45%.
In the U.S.
- According to the U.S. Census Bureau, workers 18 and over with a bachelor's degree earn an average of $51,206 a year, while those with a high school diploma earn $27,915; those without a high school diploma average $18,734.
- American business currently spends more than $60 billion each year on employee training, much of that for remedial reading, writing, and mathematics.
- Annual health care costs in the U.S. are four times higher for individuals with low literacy skills than they are for individuals with high level literacy skills.
- Women in the U.S. who have little formal education are more likely than educated women to be in abusive relationships.
- One-half of all adults in U.S. federal and state correctional institutions cannot read or write at all; 85% of juvenile offenders have reading problems.