UNESCO and Worldreader are providing mobile devices to fight illiteracy. According to UNESCO there is direct relationship between poverty and illiteracy. People living below the poverty line and those who are illiterate are in the same portion of the population. Increasing the availability of books to the almost 800 million illiterate adults and children in developing countries will change lives.

Knowing how to read and write improves educational success, health, earning potential, safety, and ultimately breaks the cycle of poverty. Literate people are empowered to seek jobs for which they might otherwise be unqualified. The increase in earnings potential contributes to overall economic growth. Literacy is related to improved self-esteem, increased community involvement, and more.

Socio-economic status is directly linked to literacy. People living in poverty and lacking access to enough food and clean water are less likely to attend school and learn to read and write. Adult literacy rates are lower in households belonging to the poorest people. In countries such as Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, the Sudan and Togo there is a 40 percent literacy gap between those living in poverty and the rich.

Access to books is necessary so that children can develop reading and writing skills, yet as many as 40 percent of schools in Africa do not have access to reading material, and if they do, it is not current, level-appropriate, or relevant to readers’ interests. Only five percent of poor families in developing countries have books in their homes for children under the age of five.

What is the answer?  Worldreader believes that providing mobile devices to fight illiteracy is part of the answer. Almost six billion of the seven billion people on Earth have access to a mobile device, providing mobile devices. Providing access to mobile devices including mobile phones, e-reader apps and e-readers will help to level the playing field.

In places where access to books is limited, Worldreader and UNESCO are helping by providing mobile devices to fight illiteracy. Worldreader is providing schools with e-readers, mobile phones as well as the Worldreader Mobile reading app. Authors and publishers around the world are helping by translating and digitizing popular book titles as well as top trade and textbook titles. Most books are free.

In surveys and interviews conducted by UNESCO and completed by more than 4,000 people in Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Zimbabwe, it was revealed that people read more on mobile devices and enjoy reading more, too. They also read to their children more from mobile devices.

Clearly leaving a bunch of books on a table or even on a mobile device does not necessarily mean that people will read, but they certainly won’t if they don’t have access. Hopefully, having access will promote both curiosity and literacy.

Mary Barringer

Photo: Flickr