To mark International Literacy Day 2021, IFLA releases a new research report, highlighting the contributions that libraries are making to successful literacy initiatives, in particular in developing countries. The report is there to support advocacy by libraries in favour of inclusion in necessary efforts to deliver literacy for all.

Today is International Literacy Day, an opportunity to celebrate all of the possibilities that literacy opens up, as well as to underline the urgency of acting to ensure that everyone enjoys these opportunities.

Literacy is essential for helping individuals to realise their potential, and take part fully in economic, social, cultural and civic life. As such, literacy is also a driver of community development.

Furthermore, in particular during the COVID-19 pandemic, it has often made the difference between being able to use digital tools (where available) to continue with life, and exclusion.

Similarly, when looking to the recovery, and wider efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, there is a real urgency to ensuring that everyone has the basic skills needed to engage with written language, as well as to create themselves.

With many children having lost months of schooling, and wider communities having missed out on in-person literacy programming, there is a need to reinforce efforts to support literacy for all.

To mark International Literacy Day 2021, IFLA has therefore looked at the examples of good literacy practice gathered by the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) in its LitBase initiative. This represents a rich collection of evaluated programmes which have seen success in strengthening skills, in particular in developing countries.

Of the 232 examples featured, almost a third refer to libraries, and together demonstrate not only how important the contribution of our institutions is to strengthening literacy, but also how diverse it is.

Libraries are engaged in successful initiatives targeted at people throughout lives, and in particular individuals and groups at risk of marginalisation. Libraries make a difference not just through access to rich and curated materials, but also as organisers and venues for literacy programming, locations for the creation of new content, cultural and community centres, and as a bridge to communities.

Libraries’ expertise and reputation, knowledge of users’ needs, ability to partner with others, and nature as a space for the enjoyment of reading all make an importance contribution. Of course to achieve this, the need for updated collections and adequate buildings and/or facilities, trained professional staff, and laws that allow for the development of partnerships are essential.

Read more in the full publication:

Provider, Partner, Promotor: Evidence from the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning’s LitBase on the Role of Libraries in Supporting Literacy around the World

LitBase is a collection of 232 evaluated examples of good practice in promoting literacy around the world, with most examples coming from developing countries. The examples provide a wide range of programmes, from the local to the national levels, with as a common thread a focus on adult literacy (o...