By Teachers, For Teachers
One out of five adults worldwide lacks basic literacy skills. Women make up two-thirds of that illiterate population. Stand up if you want to change that!
LitWorld, an international literacy organization, is coordinating a global campaign called "Stand Up for Girls" on Thursday, Sept. 22 to raise awareness of this disturbing reality and to expand literacy among girls and women.
Ruby Veridiano, LitCorps and Social Media Ambassador for LitWorld, shares details about the "Stand Up for Girls: International Day of the Girl" campaign and LitWorld's other efforts to "cultivate literacy skills in the world's most vulnerable children."
Can you tell us about “Stand Up for Girls” Day and its goals?
LitWorld's "Stand Up for Girls" campaign is a virtual and actual rally that will culminate on September 22, the International Day of the Girl.
As we continue to spread our Girls LitClubs across the world, we know how important it is to fight for girls' rights. In many places, girls are often discouraged from attaining a decent education. Our goal is to raise awareness of this issue, and to educate others about the power of the girl, her power to contribute to a country's development, and to change the world.
Why is it important to single out girls/women in as you advocate for literacy?
Out of 774 million who are illiterate in the world (which is probably a low estimate), two-thirds are women. A staggering 511 million women cannot read or write.
As our Executive Director Pam Allyn often says, literacy is a human rights issue. Without literacy, a person cannot thrive. Unfortunately, a huge gender disparity exists in education, and it is the women who are kept from excelling, yet, it has been known that a literate and educated girl is three times less likely to acquire AIDS, she will earn at least 25% more income, and she will produce a smaller, healthier family.
Women in 32 countries who remained in school after primary school were five times more likely to know basic facts about HIV than illiterate women. A study in Zambia finds that HIV spreads twice as fast among uneducated girls. Girls hold the key to change. When we invest in their futures, we not only educate individuals, we educate entire communities.
What are the biggest challenges facing the fight for worldwide literacy?
Resources and priorities are huge challenges to the Global Literacy Movement. Often, continuing a child's education falls second to the need of a family for more income, or the family's limited resouces must go toward immediate healthcare needs, when in reality literate children will be able to provide much more effectively for themselves and their families in the long run.
For girls especially, literacy isn't necessarily seen as important as learning how to take care of the family or earning wages, even though the connections between a woman's ability to read and write and her health, income, and ability to provide for her family are countless. By changing people's opinions about the importance of literacy for their children and themselves, we can make headway and improve the lives of millions of people around the world. We just need to raise our voices together to make this happen.
What concrete ways does LitWorld fight worldwide illiteracy?
LitWorld fights illiteracy through our three pillars:
2. Education, and
LitWorld redefines traditional models of accessibility by using modes of technology and social media practices to not only advocate for literacy, but to teach literacy practices in classrooms all over the world. We use video chat, social media, and mobile technology to connect students on an international level, and through this, they are able to share their stories and learn from one another.
LitWorld's World Read Aloud Day unites people across the globe to advocate for the Global Literacy Movement and the power of the shared story, and many of our participants join together with us through social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
Finally, we run many literacy programs, focusing around our LitClubs, and are constantly seeking to connect with schools, community centers, and other on the ground organizations to partner with us in order to launch more LitClubs. By doing so, we are able to help cultivate literacy and leadership skills in children, teens, and adults on their journeys engaging with their senses of self, and with their communities.
What are some LitWorld success stories?
I am happy to share that there are many LitWorld success stories, but since my work is focused our Girls LitClubs, I'll share some from that part of our work. When I first began working with LitWorld last summer of 2010, there were just three Girls Clubs, one in Kenya, and the two in New York City. Just one year later, and that number grew exponentially. Today, there are over 20 Girls Clubs throughout the world spread across Africa, the Middle East, and now Asia.
Many of our facilitators report that the girls who participate in LitClubs become more self-aware, assertive, and more confident to express their opinions. They have agency, they have courage, and they are becoming less afraid to dream big for their futures.
Our Girls Clubs also introduce participants to strong female role models, asking facilitators to invite special guests. Last December, our Girls LitClubs in Harlem enjoyed a special visit from Arianna Huffington, who spoke to them about overcoming adversity, staying focused on their goals, and embracing their power as women. It was an amazing experience for all of us, but especially for the girls, who witnessed firsthand the presence of a woman who has accomplished amazing feats in her lifetime.
What has been your most memorable moment working with LitWorld?
My most memorable experience working with LitWorld so far has been watching the teens of our Harlem Girls LitClub grow throughout the course of the year we spent together. I was able to witness firsthand their perspectives expanding, their voices growing stronger, and their determination armed with more and more conviction.
Taking them on their first college visits fueled their love for learning, and it was inspiring to see them want to create goals for themselves, and to fight for their potential as young female leaders. It was a privilege for me to be welcomed into their lives, for me to be able to learn so much from them.
How did you get involved with LitWorld?
I met Pam Allyn, the Executive Director of LitWorld, through a great friend, the talented poet Kwame Alexander, during the very first World Read Aloud Day celebration back in March 2010. I read a poem for students on that day, and Pam and I kept in touch.
I've always had a personal mission to create empowering spaces for girls, and when I first met Pam, she was beginning to conceptualize the Girls LitClub program. It was perfect timing when we met. She asked if I'd like to lead the first Girls LitClub in Harlem (there had already been one in Kibera, Kenya, and one on the Lower East Side of New York City), and I eagerly agreed.
That summer, I along with the LitWorld team, started the new LitClub with a group of teen girls, who, I am so happy and proud to say, have now completed their first year as LitClub members and are moving up to the next level to become more effective literacy leaders for their peers!
How have reading and writing shaped your life and who you are?
Reading and writing introduced me to my passion for connecting people through personal stories, and inspiring others to create positive change in the world. Before getting involved with LitWorld, I was a spoken word artist with a mission to educate youth about social issues through the medium of poetry.
I found my greatest inspirations through books and remarkable authors, and discovered the best parts of myself through my writing. Because of that, I am able to continue doing the work I'm passionate about: uplifting young girls, and encouraging them to discover their power through their words. Recently, I became the first LitCorps Ambassador in South East Asia, where I'll be spearheading the LitClub program in my home country, the Philippines. I am looking forward to what's to come!
What tips would you give teachers to encourage a love of reading and writing in their students?
Fostering a love of reading and writing is essential from a young age so that our children grow up unafraid and engaged with the written word. In our LitClubs, we use texts that are fun, relatable, and on an accessible reading level for everyone in the group, which helps them to develop their own interests and confidence in their reading and writing abilities.
Reading aloud to students and discussing the text as a group so that each student can connect with the story in his or her own level is also important.
We love to create writing activities for children that keep things fun and active. Thinking outside the box about what constitutes "writing" helps students to find their own way to connect with words: keep an open mind, writing and story telling can be drawing, cutting and pasting, or singing, too!
What are the story power awards? How do you choose people to recognize for the awards?
Each year LitWorld honors people who exemplify our mission and values. These individuals receive the Story Power Award as a testament to the power of their capacity to effect change through the power of words and stories and as advocates for children.
Will you Stand Up for Girls? Find out how at LitWorld's website & share your support below!