International Literacy Day: Providing Opportunities Across the World

September 09, 2014Calla McCabe

Yesterday was International Literacy Day! Literacy is one of the key elements for success. Worldwide, 775 million adults, approximately 12 % of the world’s population or 1 in every 5 people, lack minimum literacy skills.  Without the ability to effectively use written and digital information, these individuals are unable to help themselves or their families.   Literacy rates continue to rise, but the rate of increase is too slow.  Literate populations will not only increase self-esteem but give more opportunities to escape poverty, avoid child marriage, and allow more people to be involved in society’s decisions.  

Here at CEI, we understand that literacy is a right, much like education. Over 50 of our profiled innovative education programs focus on improving literacy all over the world. In this post we would like to point to 7 innovative literacy programs that are targeting different ages and education levels.

The Shine Literacy Programme in South Africa conducts assessments of early-primary aged children to identify those needing literacy support, and works to help build childrens' literacy skills through paired reading, have-a-go writing, specially-designed literacy games, and reading material to bring home. It provides Foundation Phase children (Grades R through Three) with reading support through a variety of activities aimed at improving literacy and language acquisition and encouraging a love of reading. The program is implemented in Shine’s school-based literacy centers by trained volunteers and using evidence-based methodology. The literacy progress of all Shine learners is carefully monitored and regularly assessed until the end of Grade Three, and progress is tracked in comparison to others in their learning cohort who are not participating in the program. Shine meets regularly with teachers and principals to discuss students’ progress, share insights and build capacity more broadly within the school to help improve literacy and language acquisition. Shine volunteers are also provided with ongoing, in-depth training and support. Read more here...

Pratham Books strives to enhance literacy levels and promote a culture of reading for enjoyment by providing access to good quality, affordable books for under-served children ages 3-14. Pratham Books specifically addresses the issues of poor access, affordability, and language and cultural relevance in providing books to Indian children from low-income families. To combat low literacy rates among Indian children, Pratham Books has established a low cost, high volume publishing firm that prints books and story cards in 11 different languages and available in 21 states of India. The books are culturally relevant to Indian children; Pratham believes all children should have "stories set in surroundings familiar to them and in a language close to their culture." Read more here...

Uwezo is a four-year initiative aimed at improving literacy and numeracy levels among children between the ages of 5-16 years in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The program aims to achieve this by shifting the education focus from access and infrastructure to what children are actually learning. Uwezo conducts large scale, citizen-led, household-based assessments of children’s actual literacy and numeracy levels.  Findings from these surveys are shared with communities from the local to national levels to create broad public awareness and debate, with the ultimate goal of stimulating policy and practical change. Read more here...

The Ghana Reads program is implemented by Open Learning Exchange Ghana and focuses on fostering interactive teaching and providing educational resources to improve literacy among low-income elementary students in Ghana. Working in the West district of the Greater Accra region, the program uses "coaches" with significant expertise in teaching and learning to help teacher’s transition to more interactive teaching methods, breaking the traditional instructor/student hierarchy. These teaching coaches work as circuit supervisors within the public education system and are assigned to schools (2 per coach) in partnership with the Ghanaian government. Prior to engagement with teachers, coaches go through training to orient them on the Ghana Reads philosophy. After being trained, coaches work with teachers in the classroom, help them in lesson planning, and record videos of teachers delivering lessons so the coach and teacher can review the lesson together and the coach can give constructive feedback. Read more here...

Ganokendra ("People’s Centers" in Bengali) provide needs-based, non-formal education in the areas of literacy, livelihood skills, health, and the environment for out-of-school children, youth, and adults living in marginalized rural and urban slum communities. It is a network of Community Learning Centers (CLCs) managed with technical support by the Dhaka Ahsania Mission aiming to provide a solution to the high level of illiteracy in Bangladesh. The Ganokendra approach promotes this networking of village-based CLCs through the establishment of Community Resource Centres at the union level. They provide literacy classes, livelihood skills training, and civic education classes among other topics to adults, adolescents, and youth in local communities. Ganokendra also function as community libraries with reading material appropriate for all ages. Read more here..

GRAPES have set up an English & Computer Literacy Center that provides basic courses for a subsidized fee to students and out-of-school youth in the remote area of Ghaddani, Balochistan. At the GRAPES English & Computer Literacy Center, sessions on English literacy and basic computer usage run every day between 3 PM and 7 PM, Monday to Friday. Sessions are two hours long and four sessions are conducted every day, two for English literacy and two for computer usage. This schedule has been developed to suit the availability of students who are either working or attending regular classes during the day. Students are expected to commit to completing a full three-month course. Read more here...

The Pathways (Novo Caminhos) project offers fast-track primary and secondary education, numeracy and literacy support for out-of-school youth to pursue education and employment opportunities. It is implemented by Fight for Peace, which provides boxing and martial arts training to young people from communities that suffer from violence and crime. Fight for Peace (FFP), or Luta pela Paz, was formed in 2000 to work in the slums of Complexo da Maré in Rio de Janeiro with at-risk youth, many of whom are involved in violence and crime or drug trafficking. Central to Fight for Peace is the boxing and martial arts component that uses sport as a tool to instill discipline, respect, and pride. In addition to boxing and martial arts training, FFP academies provide educational opportunities and personal development support to help youth reach their full potential. Read more here...


To learn more about this topic, check out the following programs and resources on the CEI website:

  • The Wordworks Early Literacy Programme trains and coordinates groups of volunteers to work in schools and libraries to provide early grade learners with the support they need to learn to read and write successfully.
  • The IIRR Pastoralist Education Project bridges curriculum and literacy gaps for children in nomadic families and for under-educated adults in rural Kenya, Ethiopia, and Uganda. This is achieved by the partnering with local organizations to build their capacity by establishing learning centers and running non-formal education programs.
  • Afghanistan Lowalee! supports literacy in and outside classrooms by providing the physical resources, spaces, and educators needed to create a vibrant "library culture" in Afghanistan.
  • The help2read program works in public primary schools and provides volunteer-based, one-on-one tutoring to students in Grades 2-4 who are struggling with literacy. The program also recruits and trains literate and unemployed adults to become reading tutors in the English language.
  • Children's Sure House aims to provide education to children in rural Uganda through schools built by volunteers. The program targets vulnerable children specifically, and also provides adult literacy courses in various districts.
See more blogs

Add new comment

7 + 1 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.

Who we work with: