The Garden Plot

International Literacy Day - September 8th

On Monday, September 8th, all around the world people will join together to celebrate UNSECO’s 48th International literacy day.  Now, some of you may not have heard about this. I admit till my volunteering with Dartmouth Learning Network I didn’t either.  

So, why is this day celebrated all over the world?  Literacy is a basic human right; everyone no matter who they are or where they live deserves access to education.  Being literate is about much more than basic ABCs and 123s.   In 2014, as really has always been a fact, is that literacy is a tool used to empower one’s self, provides opportunities, hope, vision and importantly strike out poverty.  

Reading the press release from Dartmouth Learning Network about International Literacy Day made me think of my great grandmother.  My great grandmother grew up in rural Newfoundland, in a small town long before the province joined confederation.   She herself never was able to finish school because of circumstances. However, the amazing piece to me was how she saw so much value in education- in being literate.  My Nan instilled that value in her children, and in turn in her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  Even though, she had never been able to experience a formal education she was very worldly.   She knew how beneficial being literate was, and all the doors it could open for you.  The phrase I remember her saying to many as I grew up was:

Once you have the piece of paper, they can’t take it from you and you can do with it what you wish” ~ Velma Hillier

Literacy has always been a cornerstone of personal freedom, mobility and empowerment.  However, in our globalized world it is that much more important.  Gaining literacy skills does not end when you finish a formal education; it truly is a lifelong process.   In 2014 there are many aspects to consider when discussing literacy:

·         Reading Comprehension

·         Math Literacy

·         Food Literacy

·         Computer Literacy

·         Political Literacy

·         Budgeting Literacy

·         Employment Literacy

·         Family Literacy, but to name a few areas of our lives literacy skills impact.



Even in a country as rich as ours, there are many people all across our nation who struggle to access places so they too can have the gift of literacy.  The reality is that literacy is the building block for personal, family and community success.   Individuals who are literate are able to secure more stable jobs which pay better.  They are able to contribute to the well being of neighbourhoods and help support people in their community who may be upgrading their education. Literacy is a social determinate of health, individuals who are less literate face reduced standards of health due to lower literacy, instability in employment and reduced knowledge of services they may access.  For far too long education and the right to literacy has not been prioritized across our nation.  We lack a national education strategy; provinces have been left to handle post-secondary training and most recently increased downloading of the cost for labour market training from Ottawa to the provinces.   Educational investment must occur by all three levels of government, and we the people should push for this.  Every piece is important whether it be after school reading program, library services ,equal access to educational institutions or adult skills development.   This is our birth right, let’s raise our voices and remind government: everyone has a right to learn.