It all starts with Literacy.

It’s World Read Aloud Day!


litworldwrad13badgeToday is World Read Aloud Day, a celebration of oral storytelling that’s meant “to show the world that the right to read and write belongs to all people,” its sponsors say.

It’s the fourth year for the holiday, “in which children from Harlem to Haiti and Inwood to Iraq tell stories, share books, gather in ‘Lit Clubs’ — and revel in the beauty and poetry of hearing the written word spoken,” says the New York Daily News.

“The idea is to use literacy to change the world,” said [founder Pam] Allyn, who worked for the reading-and-writing program at Teachers College at Columbia University before founding LitWorld, an international literacy nonprofit, in 2007.

With the goal of teaching 1 million kids to read by 2014, LitWorld, based on W. 57th St., began organizing the Read Aloud event in 2010; in only four years, its reach has expanded to include all 50 states, 60 countries and hundreds of thousands of participants.

Publishers such as Pearson, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster and Scholastic donate books to kids, and to promote the March 6 event, best-selling authors Harlan Coben and James Patterson, along with media darling Arianna Huffington, will be tweeting throughout the day.

In New York, for instance, a double-decker sightseeing bus will take Clifford the Big Red Dog to schools around the city.

Founder Pam Allyn wrote this in today’s Huffington Post:

I am asked — often — if there is a magic bullet for cultivating a love of reading, for boosting literacy levels and improving test scores. Actually this question has been answered for years: Just read. And for children: read aloud to them every day. Give all children access to books in any form and a reader you will have.

This week the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research published results from a six-year longitudinal study of children’s reading skills showing that reading aloud to children every day puts them almost a year ahead of children who do not receive daily read alouds. The truly astonishing finding from this study is that the positive and dramatic developmental outcomes of reading over even longer periods of time occured “regardless of parental income, education level or cultural background.”

In our tech forward culture we sometimes fixate on flashy and sleek solutions, we only want something if it looks like it came out of a Jetsons episode. Somewhere along the line we’ve linked innovation with technology and yet, here’s the amazing thing: literacy itself is humankind’s greatest and most lasting innovation.

Don’t misunderstand, I love technology because it is our power tool for the innovation of literacy. Literacy itself is already mobile, portable and democratic. Technology simply amplifies this power.

If you’re like us, you didn’t learn about this event until it was upon us and too late to take part. But there’s no reason to confine reading aloud activities to March 6. As Allyn says, the important thing is to read to children every day.

Some facts about world illiteracy, courtesy of LitWorld:

Global Literacy Statistics

  • According to the latest data (2009), 793 million adults – two thirds of them women – lack basic reading and writing skills. Included in this statistic are 127 million youth aged 15-24. (UNESCO)
  • Since 1985, the female adult literacy rate has risen 15%, which is about double the growth of the male literacy rate in the same time period. (UNESCO)
  • On tests involving 4,500 to 10,000 students in 43 countries, half of the girls said they read for at least thirty minutes a day, compared with less than one-third of the boys. (UNESCO)
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, girls have less than a 50% chance of  finishing primary school. In some Asian countries, girls also struggle: 41% of girls in Pakistan and 30% in India fail to finish primary school. (
  • Poorly-literate individuals are less likely to participate in democratic processes and have fewer chances to fully exercise their civil rights (UNESCO)
  • A child born to a mother who can read is 50 percent more likely to survive past the age of 5 than a child born to an illiterate woman. (UNESCO)
  • A literate and educated girl is three times less likely to acquire AIDS, she will earn at least twenty-five percent more income, and she will produce a smaller, healthier family. (UNESCO)

One Response to “It’s World Read Aloud Day!”

March 06, 2013 at 12:56 pm, Ellen Goodman said:

Nice to know that there are people like Pam Allyn in the world.


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