International Literacy Day - Compassion International

International Literacy Day
Help children living in poverty escape hopelessness. Make a donation to promote literacy and provide the resources they need to receive an education.

A quality education is the foundation to build a life upon.
International Literacy Day: Working Toward Worldwide Literacy

International Literacy Day is held annually on September 8. It is a day dedicated to promoting the value and power of literacy.

The motive behind International Literacy Day, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2016, is to assist the world community in encouraging literacy as a tool empowering individuals and communities.

UNESCO, the host organization for International Literacy Day, is a specialized United Nations (UN) agency working with the international community on education, science, culture and communication. Within the education space,

UNESCO coordinates global efforts to provide every adult and child access to quality education so they can fully benefit from scientific advances and enjoy full freedom of expression while living and growing in a diverse cultural environment enriched by discourse and debate.

The goal for International Literacy Day is to have all youth and a large percentage of adults, both men and women, attain literacy and numeracy by 2030, one of the outcome targets of UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

To reach the goal, UNESCO created four avenues to achieving worldwide literacy.

  • Build strong foundations through early childhood care and education
  • Provide quality basic education for all children
  • Scale-up functional literacy levels for youth and adults who lack basic literacy skills
  • Develop literate environments
Global Literacy and the Sustainable Development Goals

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the UN in 2015, formally known as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, replace and build upon the successful Millennium Development Goals. The Sustainable Development Goals expand the scope of the global community’s efforts to transform the world.

Sustainable Development Goal 4 aims to "ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong opportunities for all." It has 10 targets addressing the multiple aspects of education and worldwide literacy. Seven of the targets are desired outcomes, and three of the targets are ways to achieve the outcomes.

The seven outcome targets are:

  • Free, equitable and universal primary and secondary education
  • Access to quality early childhood development and pre-primary education for all boys and girls
  • Equal access for all women and men to technical/vocational and higher education, including university
  • Substantial increase in the number of youth and adults with relevant skills for decent work
  • Equal access to education and vocational training for the vulnerable
  • Universal youth literacy and numeracy
  • Education for sustainable development and global citizenship

The three means of implementation are:

  • Effective learning environments
  • Globally expand the number of scholarships awarded, especially in developing countries
  • Increase the number of qualified teachers
The Intersection of Literacy and Poverty: Why Literacy Matters

Literacy is central to education. It opens up opportunity. It provides hope. It changes lives, communities, and nations.

"Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope…For everyone, everywhere, literacy is, along with education in general, a basic human right." — Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations

Though literacy rates are increasing throughout the world, there are still millions of people without the ability to read or write. The majority of these people live in poverty.

Learning to read sets a ripple effect into motion. A young girl from an impoverished town in Burkina Faso attends school and learns to read. She is the first in her family. Thanks to her education and literacy, she can graduate secondary school and get a job. Not only can she now participate fully in society, she has left poverty behind and changed the story for her family. UNESCO calls this the "multiplier effect." Valuing literacy multiplies opportunities for people around the world, and illiteracy feeds the destructive power of poverty.

"There remain today 758 million adults who cannot read or write a simple sentence…these women and men are more vulnerable to ill health, exploitation and human rights abuse. They are more likely to be unemployed and paid less. Unable to read or write, they are held back from their full potential, and whole communities are locked into vicious cycles of poverty that lay the conditions for violence and strife."
— Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO

This is the ripple effect of literacy in reverse. Without literacy, the girl from Burkina Faso would have significantly fewer job opportunities, less ability to fully participate in society, and higher likelihood to remain within the grips of poverty.

Get Education and Literacy Facts and Stats:

Get the facts about education in developing countries and how it affects children and adults

Illiteracy excludes and preys disproportionately on young women and the poor in the world’s least developed countries.

International Literacy Day Themes
  • 2017: Literacy in a Digital World
  • 2016: 50th Anniversary: Reading the Past, Writing the Future
  • 2015: Literacy and Sustainable Societies
  • 2014: Literacy and Sustainable Development
  • 2013: Literacies for the 21st Century
  • 2011-2012: Literacy and Peace
  • 2009-2010: Literacy and Empowerment
  • 2007-2008: Literacy and Health
  • 2006: Literacy Sustains Development
  • 2005: Literacy and Sustainable Development
  • 2003-2004: Literacy and Gender
  • 2002: Literacy for Diversity: Voices of Resilience.

80.7% Directly to Program
19.3% Supporting Activities
International Literacy Day Prayers

Dear Lord, thank you for giving us minds to learn. We pray that children in poverty around the world would have the opportunity to learn to love you with all their MIND. Please provide good quality books, school supplies, shoes, uniforms, and teachers so that children can learn skills that will help them escape poverty. We trust in your provision. Amen.

  • Pray that children living in poverty will have the opportunity to receive an education, learn to read, and gain skills that will give them tools to have productive, fulfilling and happy lives.
  • Pray that children around the world would learn to love God with all their MIND. Pray that they will seek to be learners, growers, and leaders for the Kingdom of God.
  • Pray that children in poverty would have access to books, school supplies and uniforms, so that they would have the opportunity to attend school.

Luke 10:27 (NIV)

He answered, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your MIND'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

International Literacy Day Photos

A young girl in Thailand writes her school homework in a notebook

A teenage girl in Togo writes on the chalkboard in her classroom


Literacy Breaks the Bonds of Poverty


Receiving an education is out of the question for many children in poverty. For some, school is too expensive. For others, generating income to help support their families outweighs going to school. Food on the table comes before books, supplies, and uniforms. This is the story for many children in poverty.

An education can provide the knowledge, skills, and training to create a better future. It brings hope for a future outside the constraints of poverty. The chance to receive a quality education can change everything for a child, a family and a community.

Every child deserves the opportunity to receive an education. In honor of International Literacy Day, support the education and literacy of children in poverty by donating to our Educational Needs fund. By giving to Compassion’s Educational Needs fund, you will help provide:

  • Textbooks and curriculum
  • Supplies and fees for tests and labs
  • Playgrounds, libraries and computer labs
  • Postsecondary classes
  • Vocational training
  • Literacy and financial training for adult caregivers

Join us in giving children in poverty the opportunity to become learners, readers, and leaders.


Give Today and provide an opportunity for children to receive a secondary education


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