Celebrating International Literacy Day on Friday, September 8!

by Lesley-Anne Longo

Published at 2023-09-06

International Literacy Day is approaching, so we thought it would be a good time to delve into this important observation and how you can celebrate!


History & Importance

International Literacy Day was founded by a proclamation of The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, in 1967.  The initiative promotes the importance of literacy as a fundamental right and a prerequisite for sustainable development. It takes place on September 8 of each year to raise awareness for literacy issues, both within our own local communities and globally.

Take a moment and imagine navigating modern-day life without the basic ability to read and write. It’s easy to take literacy for granted, but without it, you would struggle to go through your daily routines. If you can’t read the labels at the grocery store, how do you know what items to get? What about prescription medications, or over-the-counter medicines such as Tylenol? Can you read the dosage instructions? If you’re travelling somewhere, can you read the road signs?

Canada has a strong focus on literacy, with over 99% of the adult population being literate. However, challenges remain, particularly for individuals within marginalized groups. In the United States, it is estimated that 32 million American adults are illiterate.

Literacy is a very real part of how we live our lives each day, and wiping out illiteracy in every local community around the world is what International Literacy Day is all about.


How You Can Celebrate


You can volunteer as a reader—many such programs exist in communities across the country. The Toronto Public Library has a “Leading to Reading” program that assists children in Grades 1–6 who are struggling with reading, and they rely heavily on volunteers. Volunteers admitted to the service are paired off with a child who they meet with once a week, for an hour, at the library. Under the supervision and guidance of Leading to Reading staff, the volunteer assists the child with further developing their reading skills.

Other similar programs in Canada include the Volunteer Readers Programme, which offers both community and school placements, as well as Strong Start to Reading.



You can of course donate money to literacy organizations, but many of these charitable outreach programs also accept donations of books. You can check out this list of organizations that support literacy initiatives across Canada. If there’s one in your area, please consider supporting its work!

Other great organizations you can donate to include the Canadian Children’s Book Centre. The CCBC has provided books to over 550,000 first-grade Canadian children. It also works to develop teacher resources, support authors and illustrators, and provide literacy support to children in remote areas of the country.

There’s also First Book Canada, an organization working to improve access to quality education and books for children in need. Almost 25% of Canadian households don’t have a single book. And without resources such as books, kids can’t learn.


Attend Events

Try checking out authors that are doing readings in your area, whether it’s at the local library, a bookstore, or another venue! Independent bookstores may also do other events that you might find interesting and fun. And if you find an intriguing new book to take home while you’re there, well good on you for supporting a local business!

You can also try joining a book club, as there are now many options to get involved in these groups—some virtual, some in-person, or a mix of both! If you find yourself gravitating towards a certain genre, consider seeking out a book club specific to that genre! There are ones for sci-fi, romance, non-fiction, classic novels…there’s something for everyone.

And if you’re not quite certain about joining a club but wouldn’t mind just chatting about what you’re reading at the moment, Toronto has a fun concept that I think is great—a BYOB (Bring Your Own Book) Club! Simply bring your own book (or a list of books!) to this fun book club and discuss it with like-minded book lovers. New members are welcome, and no registration is required.


Observe and Consider

Literacy is a fundamental human right—and it provides a foundation for lifelong success. On International Literacy Day, we thank those who are working to improve access to quality education, both in Canada and around the world.

Canada has come a long way in addressing challenges in the field of literacy, but we need to keep working to ensure that no one is left behind when it comes to being able to read. Whether you donate, volunteer, or simply promote a love of reading to those around you, you can help make sure literacy is something everyone can enjoy. 



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