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| Last Updated:: 31/08/2021

International Literacy Day

September 8 was proclaimed International Literacy Day by UNESCO on November 17, 1965. It was first celebrated in 1966. Its aim is to highlight the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies. On International Literacy Day each year, UNESCO reminds the international community of the status of literacy and adult learning globally. Celebrations take place around the world


Some 774 million adults lack minimum literacy skills; one in five adults is still not literate and two-thirds of them are women; 72.1 million children are out-of-school and many more attend irregularly or drop out. According to UNESCO’s "Global Monitoring Report on Education for All (2006) South and West Asia has the lowest regional adult literacy rate (58.6%), followed by sub-Saharan Africa (59.7%), and the Arab States (62.7%). Countries with the lowest literacy rates in the world are Burkina Faso (12.8%), Niger (14.4%) and Mali (19%). The report shows a clear connection between illiteracy and countries in severe poverty, and between illiteracy and prejudice against women.


The aim of International Literacy Day is to focus attention on the need to promote worldwide literacy. On International Literacy Day, individuals, organizations, and countries throughout the world renew their efforts to promote literacy and demonstrate their commitment to providing education for all.


Literacy is important because


  • It is instrumental in an individual’s development at personal, family, and community levels.


  • Literacy strengthens individuals, families, and communities’ ability to access health, educational, political, economic, and cultural opportunities and services.


  • An individual who lacks literacy skills or who has poorly developed literacy skills is more likely to live in poverty than an individual who reads well.


  • Literacy is at the core of all other education.


The international theme for International Literacy Day

2021:  “Literacy for a human-centred recovery: Narrowing the digital divide"

2020:  “Literacy teaching and learning in the COVID-19 crisis and beyond"

2019:  “Literacy and Multilingualism”

2018:  “Literacy and skills development”

2017: “"Literacy in a digital World”

2016:  “Reading the past, Writing the Future”

2015: “ Literacy and Sustainable Societies".

2014: “Literacy and Sustainable Development” to promote sustainable development in the areas of social development, economic growth, and environmental integration.

2013: “Literacies for the 21st Century” to promote global literacy.

2011-2012: “Literacy and Peace” to focus on importance of literacy for peace.

2009-2010: “Literacy and Empowerment” to focus on gender equality and empowering women.

2007 and 2008: “Literacy and Health” to focus on literacy and epidemics (communicable diseases like HIV, Tuberculosis, Malaria, etc).

2006: “Literacy sustains development” to focus on achieving social progress.