Bring International Literacy Day 2021 into Your Classroom

The 8th September 2021 is International Literacy Day. This global awareness day has been celebrated annually since 1967 after being officially declared by UNESCO on the 26th October 1966. The importance of literacy has not diminished over time and, if anything, it has grown in significance particularly in light of the digital age and the coronavirus pandemic. 

What is International Literacy Day?

International Literacy Day serves to remind us of the importance of literacy; it is regarded as integral to dignity and human rights. The purpose of ILD is to continue to move towards a more literate, sustainable society. Progress has been made over the years. However, according to the UNSECO website, there are still huge challenges to overcome with around 773 million young people and adults lacking basic literacy skills.

International Literacy Day 2021

The theme for 2021’s ILD is ‘Literacy for a human-centred recovery: Narrowing the digital divide’. This is a topical theme as the world continues to face the COVID-19 pandemic and prevalent inequalities around the world. 

During national lockdowns in the United Kingdom, schools turned to online learning (with keyworker children still present in the classroom). This was mirrored in other countries around the world. Amazing efforts were made by school staff to continue to provide schooling for young people. However, the move to distance learning served to further highlight inequalities in terms of access to literacy as well as the digital divide and access to resources.

The power of literacy has been reinforced by the pandemic. Literacy is the key to accessing education as well as positively impacting each individual. Literacy can improve quality of life as it can prove empowering from person to person as well as giving us a choice in the life we lead with more doors open to us. In terms of sustainable development, literacy is a fundamental part of education and lifelong learning; it is formed on humanism and features in the Sustainable Development Goals. UNESCO have highlighted that, due to this, literacy will play a key role in a ‘human-centred recovery’ from the pandemic. 

UNESCO state that International Literacy Day 2021 will endeavour to ‘…explore how literacy can contribute to building a solid foundation for a human-centred recovery, with a special focus on the interplay of literacy and digital skills required by non-literate youth and adults. It will also explore what makes technology-enabled literacy learning inclusive and meaningful to leave no one behind. By doing so, ILD2021 will be an opportunity to reimagine future literacy teaching and learning, within and beyond the context of the pandemic.’

International Literacy Day in the Classroom

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”- Dr Seuss

Celebrate Literacy: For younger pupils, or those with a lack of enthusiasm, use ILD to drum up excitement and positivity towards literacy. Activities such as creating bookmarks, letter matching games and discussing favourite pieces of literature serve to develop a love and appreciation of literacy!

Pen Pal Scheme: A central premise of International Literacy Day is ensuring everybody has the opportunity to develop their literacy skills, building a more equal world. Partnering with a school in a different country is a fantastic way to develop a collective conscience and an awareness of differences from country to country. A pen pal scheme would highlight differences in education and childhood as well as building on writing skills. 

Book swaps: If your reading corner/library has been well-used and utilised numerous times, then why not arrange a book swap with a neighbouring school? You could take it one step further and implement a book recommendation scheme wherein children exchange books from the book corner, giving another child a book they enjoyed. This a great way to reignite a love of reading and renew interest. 

Journaling: Give your class a blank exercise book and allow them to decorate the cover however they wish. Explain that each day you will spend 10-15 minutes completely independent journal time. The idea is for children to practice their literacy skills by completing a journal on a daily basis. You can either opt to make this a completely independent and free activity with no set agenda on what the pupils write or you could set a theme, e.g. 3 positive things that have happened each day (this would be fantastic for wellbeing, also!). 

Book Sale: Ask for donations from parents, carers, staff and the local community. Then, you can set up a school book sale! This would be an ideal activity for upper KS2 as they can plan out each aspect of the book sale and integrate key subjects, such as mathematics. It would be an ideal opportunity to put life skills into practice! The proceeds made from the sale can then be donated to a charity which will benefit pupils without adequate literacy provision. 

The digital age: Sticking with the theme for ILD 2021, why not dedicate some time to considering how technology can be used alongside literacy in a positive way? You could potentially explore how not every child has access to technology and encourage the class to think about the problems this could present, especially in light of a pandemic (this is probably most suitable for Upper KS2 upwards).  

Whatever you do this International Literacy Day, have fun and celebrate the power and influence literacy has in all of our lives. In light of International Literacy Day, why not read our guest blog, ‘School Fundraising: Raise Money Fast and Engage Children’ next?

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