From Darkness to Light: The Power of Literacy

How would your life be different if you couldn’t read and write? What if you couldn’t manage your finances, write a text message to a friend, or read a textbook? What if you couldn’t fill out paperwork to send your child to school, or to receive treatment at a hospital?

This World Literacy Day, we’re shining light on the important work buildOn does every single day to ensure that everyone has access to a quality education, and the opportunity to build a better life for themselves and their families. 

In 2023, illiteracy may feel like a distant problem. But every single day, there are over 773 million people around the world––more than double the population of the United States––who cannot read or write.

Try to imagine looking at a sign, a book, or, increasingly, a phone or computer and being unable to make sense of the collection of symbols in front of you. For almost 1 in 10 people on this planet, that is the reality they face.

Illiteracy is especially problematic for women who make up two-thirds of all illiterate people worldwide. This equity gap is caused by a variety of factors:

In today’s modern world, those who lack literacy are trapped in a cycle of poverty. Not only can they not read a medicine label or compare prices at a supermarket, they cannot apply for a job online or help their children with their homework. 

All over the planet, from under-resourced schools in the United States to countries wracked by years of exploitation and lack of investment in education, illiteracy and poverty are inextricably linked. Global illiteracy costs the global economy $1.19 trillion each year through lost earnings and productivity.

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The life of an illiterate person in today’s society is one of not only financial uncertainty, but isolation as well. People who cannot read or write are unable to keep up with their friends on social media or via email, both vital ways of staying connected in today’s digital world.

That is why World Literacy Day is so important. Though literacy rates have risen over the past five decades, there are still far too many people worldwide who are functionally illiterate. When a person can read and write, they have access to more jobs and economic opportunities, quality healthcare, and improved nutrition. Even more, they can experience the joy of reading and better understand the world around them. They can connect with not only their neighbors, but people all across the globe.

buildOn helps people across the world experience the joy of reading, like this student in Senegal.

buildOn is committed to ensuring equitable access to a quality education for children and adults around the world. In the U.S., our Service-Learning Program provides students from under-resourced high schools with the tools they need to transform their communities, and their own lives, through service-learning.

Globally, we partner with communities to build quality schools where not only children can learn to read and write, but their parents and grandparents can learn as well. Through our Enroll Program, we address the barriers communities face and bring out-of-school children back to the classroom. 

Illiteracy crosses national borders and holds us all back. Here at buildOn, we’re proud to be working to make sure all people are able to read and write. A literate life is a fulfilling one, and one that all humans deserve.

To help celebrate World Literacy Day, please consider making a gift to support buildOn’s work to promote literacy across the globe.