Literacy, according to its simplest definition, is the ability to read and to write.

However, as the meaning of literacy has evolved in meaning, the term has come to incorporate far more than reading and writing; literacy has become synonymous with knowledge and competence, ability and skill.

Literacy doesn’t just enable us to skim the newspaper on our morning commute or delve into the depths of our favourite novel, it facilitates our ability to function and progress at every stage of life.

In the same way, lacking fundamental literacy skills has the potential to hold a person back at each and every life stage, from education to employment, understanding prices and road signs to using the internet. And it doesn’t stop there. Illiteracy is the root cause of many of the world’s biggest problems.

Recognising the importance of literacy, in 1966, UNESCO decided to mark September 8th as International Literacy Day. The day serves as a crucial reminder to people around the world of the importance of literacy, while standing as an opportunity for Governments, civil servants and stakeholders to highlight improvement in world literacy rates and reflect on the world’s remaining literacy challenges.

This year, International Literacy Day is dedicated to ‘Literacy and Multilinguialism’. Despite progress made, literacy challenges persist, distributed unevenly across countries and populations. Embracing linguistic diversity in education and literacy development is central to addressing these literacy challenges and to achieving UNSECO's Sustainable Development Goals.

In 2018, we worked with Pearson to launch Project Literacy, a multifaceted and ongoing campaign which drives action that puts reading and writing within everyone’s reach. Our petition of support for the ‘Alphabet of Illiteracy’ campaign was signed over 14,000 times and Project Literacy has been asked to join the UNESCO Global Alliance for Literacy as a result.

Literacy also incorporates sign language, and this year, we are proud supporters of the petition to make British Sign language part of the national curriculum. The StorySign campaign we created for Huawei continues to use the power of AIto facilitate an authentic reading experience for deaf children and their families. Translating popular children’s books into sign language, the StorySign app. opens the world of books to those who are otherwise outside their enjoyment.

So, whether it’s signing the petition to ensure sign language is taught and known by all, following the events of International Literacy Day 2019 or recognising our own privilege to literacy, let’s do something to make a difference this International Literacy Day.