Supporting literacy at home and in schools around the world
Imagine your life without reading. No, not because you don’t find the time to read. You just cannot… And imagine schools and homes without books, where there are little or no chances to get a proper education. UNESCO reveals a sad picture of global literacy rates: 757 million people worldwide, including 115 million youth, are illiterate.
People who lack basic skills in reading and writing live mainly in the developing countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Moreover, World Literacy Foundation states that illiteracy is linked to higher rates of poverty, crime, and long-term illnesses. Undoubtedly, a better and happier world can emerge if we break the cycle of poverty and let everyone experiment the power of knowledge.
Myriad charity and nonprofit organizations try to turn this vision into a reality through various literacy projects. Some need volunteers, while others are looking for funds or book donations. If you would like to join efforts for making a change, consider this list of 14 organizations that promote literacy or simply share this list.
Many charities operate in a vast number of countries worldwide, thus making their services and resources available to wider groups of people.
By delivering digital books to children and their families, WorldReader aims to improve the lives of the poorest. They have reached 69 countries and provided over 28,000 books in 43 languages so far. Their target is the developing countries, where people have limited access to reading materials. Believing in the power of innovative technologies, they build mobile connectivity and digital platforms to bring ebooks everywhere. The offices of this non-profit are located in the US (San Francisco), Spain (Barcelona), Gana (Accra), and Kenya (Nairobi).
The motto of Book Aid reveals its mission most clearly – “vibrant libraries, inspired readers, empowered communities.” With their staff based in London, Book Aid also has its representative in Nairobi, East Africa. Since 1954, this charity has delivered over 31 million books to the libraries of Africa, Palestine and South Sudan. Book Aid does not merely provide books but also establishes Children’s corners and trains librarians. Hundreds of library workers have already received professional trainings to excel in their jobs and make a change in their communities.
World Literacy Foundation
No literacy, no poverty. The World Literacy Foundation is a non-profit organization aiming to help the most marginalized young people out of poverty through quality education and literacy. World Literacy Foundation believes that reading and writing are essential skills to have personal and professional progress in life and open the doors of lifetime success. Its headquarters are in Australia (Melbourne), USA (Columbia, Michigan) and UK (Birmingham).
Charities are available for those who live in the USA and are deprived of the vital opportunity to acquire literacy.
Seven writing and tutoring centers are united under 826 National nonprofit organization. The seven chapters are located in Ann Arbor/Detroit, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. Under-resourced students, from 6 to 18 years old, get the opportunity to develop their writing skills and enhance creativity owing to supportive tutors and innovative programs – all free of charge. Strong writing skills, creativity, confidence and individuality – this is what 826 National calls the path to success.
Believing that books help children succeed in school and life, BookHarvest aims to create home libraries by providing books to children, up to 18 years old, who live in Durham, North Carolina. They aspire to see houses rich with books, regardless the income of the families. BookHarvest provides preschoolers with free and age-relevant books via home visits and regularly delivers books to children who are at risk of summer learning loss. Since its foundation, the organization has donated over 350.000 titles.
Now let’s move to the European Continent and explore charity companies in the UK. Fortunately, a good number of them operate here to help both the children and adults.
A student from the University of Nottingham travels to Tanzania and faces a lack of reading resources. As a result, READ International is founded in 2004 which is represented in England and Tanzania. Though the organization has evolved significantly since then, its focus remained the same: provide Tanzanian secondary schools with educational resources. The organization not only provides schools with books they need but also refurbishes old, unused classrooms into inviting libraries. The donated books by READ International to Tanzania count for 1.4 million, while the number of libraries created in schools has reached 76.
NALA is on a mission to create equal opportunities for adults with literacy and numeracy difficulties in Ireland so that they can fully integrate into social life. Founded back in 1980, The National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) has been addressing adult literacy issues through tutor trainings, distance education services and development of teaching materials. The program is realized with the help of 1,500 paid tutors and over 2,400 volunteers. The impact of this independent charity is significant: currently, 54,000 adults attend literacy courses in Ireland.
People in The Reader believe that reading in groups can be more beneficial, that’s why they bring people together to read stories aloud and listen to poems in welcoming environments. Every week, The Reader reads to 2.000 people of all ages and backgrounds in a wide range of places: schools, workplaces, care homes, prisons, mental health wards, etc. This charitable social enterprise aims to make shared reading nationwide, so that every person easily finds a place and a group to join in the UK. The enterprise operates in Liverpool and Wirral, but also organizes activities in London, Scotland, Wales.
We start gaining reading skills in our childhood to be able to create a successful future later on. However, statistics reports discouraging picture for our kids: A 2013 National Assessment of Education Progress test found that 65 percent of fourth graders read at a “below proficient” level. Fortunately, there are a vast number of charities and nonprofits which bring literacy and enlightenment home for children.
Milk and Bookies
Read, give and grow! These three words embrace the philosophy and mission of Milk and Bookies. It places books on children’s hands and spreads the love for reading through so-called “book raisers”. Children are invited to special “book raisers”, where they can choose, inscribe and donate books to kids in need, thus learning the importance of giving as well. The nonprofit was established in 2004, California, Santa Monica and organizes book sharing events throughout USA and Canada.
Reading is Fundamental
“Every child deserves a book to call their own”, states the team in Reading is Fundamental, located in Washington, DC. They bring the joy of reading to early elementary students across America, especially those who are from low-income communities and are at higher risk of falling behind. RIF is driven by the idea that getting a book and owning it makes a difference in reading outcomes. And when this ownership is complemented by in-class activities and teachers’ support, the impact is even greater.
The Book Bus
Established by publisher Tom Maschler, The Book Bus drives books to children in Zambia, Malawi, Ecuador and India. The idea behind is innovative and beneficial: the Book Bus provides mobile library facilities and attractive story-telling to enliven the heroes and make children’s reading experience memorable. The organization supports a group of five schools for three months. At the end of this literacy project a new school library is opened and relevant books are provided.
Room to Read
Room to Read’s focus is on two main areas: literacy and gender equality in education. They cooperate with local governments in Asia and Africa to support primary school children to develop their reading skills and help girls to complete secondary school with skills necessary for making their own life choices. Local challenges are easily fought as the programs are run by local staff who knows their communities, customs and language better than anyone. Room to Read has grown to operate in ten countries in Africa and Asia (Zambia, Bangladesh, Tanzania, etc.)
Pajama Program wishes every child a good night with a new book and a new pajama! The story of this nonprofit began in 2001 after meeting children who had no idea they can take off the clothes they had been wearing all day long and wear a pair of pajamas while sleeping. Pajama program selects children, newborn to age 18, who have been emotionally or physically traumatized, neglected or abandoned. These children, living below the poverty level, have been deprived of a parent hug before bedtime, a clean pajama and a nice story. Pajama program has chapters throughout the US, so it should be quite easy to find an office to visit and to donate to.
Literacy Programs and Charities: Outlook
Giving books is not merely about helping people; it is acknowledging that education is a basic human right which unlocks the door to a better life. In order to provide a sustainable assistance, we need to be well-informed and choose a charity that speaks to our requirements and expectations.
Charity Navigator is a helpful tool to find a charity you trust and make your contribution to adults and children in any corner of the world. Charity Navigator’s reports present detailed information on a non-profit’s financial health, accountability and transparency so that you can make an intelligent decision before setting off on this rewarding journey.
How can you further improve your own reading skills? You can take your learning skills a step further and learn to speed reading using reading improvement software, enroll in an online course to push memory and reading skills or increase your vocabulary in general.
Image credit: flickR Common License | Beyond Access
Please share this list or consider a donation to support literacy charities. Feel free to leave suggestions of other literacy programs and charities not listed here.