Now that my children are older, I’m wistful for many things, but one that seems to bring the most nostalgic pangs is how much I miss reading to them and with them. I still have all of our favorite picture books, many of the covers well-worn, with tattered edges, fingerprints, and pages loosened from their spines.
My oldest, now 20, knew so well the story of Friska — a small sheep that saved the rest of the flock from a menacing wolf — that she was “reading” the book herself at 4 years old, even though she wasn’t really reading. I can still picture her sitting with the book on her lap, turning the pages, reciting the story aloud, which she knew by heart after hearing it countless times.
You’ve probably heard of World Read Aloud Day, held every year in March, a day that brings attention to the benefits of reading aloud. But do you know that more than 790 million people in the world are illiterate? That includes 523 million girls and women who cannot read or write.
The amazing organization that sponsors World Read Aloud day — LitWorld — believes that the right to read aloud belongs to all people. World Read Aloud Day motivates children, teens, and adults to celebrate the power of words, especially words that are shared from one person to another. This day creates a community of readers advocating for every child’s right to a safe education and access to books and technology.
But the organization does so much more than World Read Aloud Day. LitWorld’s Stand Up for Girls campaign advocates for every girl’s right to a quality education. By learning to read and write, girls can begin to free themselves from poverty, poor health, and lifelong struggles. LitWorld believes that literacy is a skill that once learned, is hers forever.
LitWorld stands on three core pillars: advocacy, education, and innovation. These pillars together create a complete approach to how we can impact outcomes for the world’s children and help them reach adulthood as readers and writers.
Research shows that children learn to read and write best by writing and telling stories of their own experiences. Yet in many countries, children are unable to find safe places in which to do so. LitWorld sponsors LitClubs throughout the world in countries like Kenya, Ghana, Iraq, and several U.S. states. These friendship-focused learning groups create safe spaces for kids to read, write, and build leadership skills. LitWorld also runs LitCamps during the summers. Their goal is to help one million children learn to read by 2014.
A newer effort, the Project for Solar Reading Power, provides lanterns to students in developing countries who lack electricity, replacing dim, dirty, dangerous kerosene lamps in their homes. This effort is now underway in Kenya.
With solar lanterns, children can study after dark with good light for reading and writing. Their families save on the cost of kerosene. Not to mention that each kerosene lamp replaced with a solar lantern can prevent the release of over a ton of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere!
You can help! Visit litworld.org to learn more.
Michele Weber Hurwitz is the author of Calli Be Gold (Wendy Lamb Books 2011) and the forthcoming The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days (Wendy Lamb Books 2014). Visit her at www.micheleweberhurwitz.com.