International Literacy Day 2020 has a history of being an important day of recognizing the ways and means to help all people learn to read. This year the initiative will change the format to accommodate the limitations of COVID-19, but the ability to read and the availability of books for as many people as possible will continue! The theme for 2020 is Literacy teaching and learning in the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.” The aim goes beyond the present as it highlights a lifetime goal of literacy learning for both youth and adults.  

United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, most commonly known as UNESCO, will hold the 2020 conference virtually, but they will not reduce the message and the resources to aid in their quest. Global celebrations of International Literacy Day on Tuesday, September 8, 2020 will include: 1) A meeting on ‘”Literacy teaching and learning in the COVID-19 crisis and beyond: the role of educators and changing pedagogies” (13:30-15:30 Paris time, GMT+2), and 2) a meeting on the Laureates of the UNESCO International Literacy Prizes 2020 (16:00-17:00 Paris time, GMT+2). Both meetings will be accessible by registering through Zoom. Registration: https://events.unesco.org/event?id=1435092848&lang=1033

If there was ever a question of limited literacy, the COVID-19 crisis and changes in all manners of learning came to the forefront because the individuals who have no or low literacy skills face multiple disadvantages with the suspension of adult learning programs and schools in general. This year’s Literacy Day seeks to explore how literacy programs can continue to teach and share their knowledge and books within the pandemic and into the future. The goal is to find or create policies, systems, and measures to support educators.  

The conference will focus on the role of educators and how they have changed their teaching practices to accommodate learning while in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, but questions will revolve around how the resulting solutions will move the literacy mission into the future.  

They will assess the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on youth and adult literacy educators, on teaching and learning as they review documented lessons learned throughout the educational community. The movement reaches for methods on both the global and national level to effectively promote youth and adult literacy. 

Expanding education in a digital world is not a new concept for UNESCO when in 2017, International Literacy Day turned their focus toward the literacy skills necessary to navigate digital-mediated societies. The first Literacy Day conference in 1967 addressed governments, schools, and communities around the world to focus on effective ways to end illiteracy at the local level.

And on this local level people today can donate books to schools, offer to tutor young and old who are struggling to read and perhaps start a community lending library, but with extra care and new methods as we fight the pandemic.

Grace Aspinall
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