Literacy Rates
Literacy is fundamental when investing in the future and working toward greater health, economic prosperity and gender equality and is a fair indicator of a nation’s relationship with education. Former UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova summarized this perfectly when she said “the future starts with the alphabet.” As a proven pathway out of poverty, education leads to higher literacy rates, which can ease economic burdens in developing nations.

Global Literacy Rates

According to the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD), in 2016, the global literacy rate stood at 86% for individuals 15 and older in comparison to 91% for youth aged 15-24. These high percentages are indicative of increased access to basic education. Across the past 65 years, “the global literacy rate increased by 4% every five years from 42% in 1960 to 86% in 2015.”

However, there is a large disparity among developing countries, specifically those in sub-Saharan Africa. For example, in 2019, Niger’s youth illiteracy rate for ages 15-24 stood at 60.3%, which is a constraint for economic and social development in the nation.

From an economic perspective, any effort toward increased literacy marks a returned investment in the nation’s growth. High illiteracy rates place a financial burden on nations. The World Literacy Foundation found in 2018 that the economic cost of illiteracy in the U.S. alone is more than $300 billion, and in terms of the global economy, illiteracy costs the world $1.2 trillion.

Literacy for Poverty Reduction

Established research highlights the correlation between high literacy rates and a high GDP. Friedrich Huebler, the head of the Education Standards and Methodology Section of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, conducted a study in 2005 where he plotted the school net enrollment ratios (NER) against GDP per capita of 120 different countries. His findings showed that “the higher the income levels of a country, the higher the levels of school enrollment.”

When it comes to cost per student in regard to literacy rates, there is a stark global trend: “In high-income countries, for instance, households shoulder a larger share of education expenditures at higher education levels than at lower levels – but in low-income countries, this is not the case.” The amount a household spends on education directly correlates to higher education rates. Because of this, low-income countries are falling behind in education levels because of the low private spending on education in comparison to their higher-income counterparts.

Books For Africa Works to Increase Literacy Rates

Books For Africa is working to “end the book famine in Africa” by collecting and distributing books, tablets and computers across the African continent. Tom Warth founded BfA in 1988 when he visited a Ugandan library with an extreme scarcity of books. He went back to the U.S. and spoke with “publishers, booksellers and librarians” at the Minnesota Book Publishers’ Roundtable, prompting the start of the organization.

Through a simple idea, Books For Africa has made a profound impact on the access to knowledge in Africa. According to its website, “last year alone, Books For Africa shipped 3.1 million books, and 224 computers and e-readers containing more than 885,000 digital books to 28 African countries.”

The organization’s methodology has been proven to increase education and literacy rates. According to USAID’s research, “children and youth who learn to read are healthier, more self-sufficient, can earn a better living and have more opportunities to become productive members of their societies.” Not only does the increased access to books promote literacy but it also contributes to the development of children and communities at large.

Room to Read

Room to Read is an international nonprofit that is fighting specifically for increased access to girls’ education alongside children’s literacy. This mission is important as more than two-thirds of the 796 million illiterate people in the world are women.

John Wood founded the nonprofit in 1998 when he visited a school in Nepal with 450 students and very few resources. Wood began with 3,000 book donations from family and friends. Wood soon left his job at Microsoft as director of business development to pursue his passion for education with co-founders Erin Ganju and Dinesh Shrestha.

Since its founding, the nonprofit has reached more than 32 million children across 15 developing nations. About 20 million children have enrolled in Room to Read’s literacy initiative and the organization has provided training to more than “200,000 teachers and librarians.” Specifically, in the arena of girls’ education, 2.8 million girls have enrolled in the organization’s girls’ education program.

Room to Read prioritizes working directly with “local governments, schools, communities and families” to highlight the importance of education “and how [these groups] can play a role in enabling students to achieve their full potential.” Additionally, 87% of the organization’s staff work in their countries of origin, ensuring that the efforts are more grassroots and built from the community.

High literacy rates are paramount for economic development, and with a continued commitment to further this at the grassroots level and beyond, global poverty rates can reduce.

– Imaan Chaudhry
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

International Book Donation Programs
A new book can mean everything. It can transport you to a new world, untouched by your reality; it can comfort you; it can teach you. From novels to textbooks, international book donation programs help to shape our world and educate those who its words touch.

International Book Donation Programs

International book donation programs are a beautiful thing. They are run by some of the most powerful organizations in the world, for example the World Bank, or by grassroots movements. According to the World Bank, the world literacy rate is at 86 percent, the highest it has ever been. This means it is the best time to donate books and that every book donated can make a significant impact.

Over 30 years ago, the World Bank started the International Book Bank (IBB). Its slogan, “Books save lives,” was once one of the world’s largest international book donation programs and supported smaller international book donation programs. Since its inception in 1987, the IBB has shipped over 30 million new books around the world.

Many of these books were donated by the publishers themselves and sent on to individual schools and charities to be utilized by local institutions. However, in 2016 the IBB had to change with the world. According to their website, the spread of terrorism in many of their areas of operation, coupled with rising shipping cost and publishers moving to electronic texts, meant a strategy restructure.

International Book Bank and The International Book Project

Instead of en-mass shipping, the IBB shifted its focus to smaller and more precise projects, such as Liberia 20/20. Liberia 20/20 was started in mid-2016 and is intended to strengthen the Liberian education and library system through modern times. The IBB helps to develop electronic indigenous material for children and young adults and encourage indigenous authors to share their work by teaching them about property rights and translation. 

In Kentucky, there exists a grassroots, NGO international book donation program called The International Book Project (IBP). The IBP was founded in 1966 by Harriet Van Meter and since its inception, the IBP has sent over 6 million books worldwide. By sending books around the world, the IBP sees its efforts as a way to teach Americans about their world neighbors.

With a valid mailing address, a single person or organization can have anywhere from a 100 books in separate boxes or an entire shipping container with 10,000 to 40,000 books. The IBP provides books from all different genres and types, and works closely with Habitat for Humanity and Kentucky Refugee Ministries. The Kentucky Refugee Ministries is an organization which provides assistance to refugees resettling in the United States.

Books for Africa and E-Readers

One of the largest international book donation programs in the world, and the largest one dedicated to the African continent, is Books For Africa. Over 41 million books have been shipped by Books for Africa. According to their website, they have donated three million books and 93 computers and e-readers in the last year.

Utilizing computers for reading is a practice quickly growing and vastly important. Not only are publishers focusing more and more on electronic text, but computer programs and games are also being used to learn to read. Although the feeling of a book in your hand cannot be replicated, research becomes much easier when one deals with large texts on a computer rather than in sixteen pounds of books. This reality is why many of these computers and e-readers came with books already installed.

A Book or Two

The World Bank completed many studies since the mid-1980s in African countries, and findings showed that each time students received donated books, they had a higher chance to retain what they learn and retain fluency in the language. The good news is that these are not the only programs donating and shipping books.

It is easy to donate a book or two yourself to one of these charities. The University of Buffalo has an easily navigable list of international book donation programs for you to choose from. So as you read this and think about all those extra books stuffed in your basement, remember they have the potential to do better elsewhere.

– Nick DeMarco
Photo: Flickr

Most people know that education is the key to ending global poverty. If the next generation of leaders, entrepreneurs, teachers and parents are better educated, they will be more equipped to improve their conditions.

Books for Africa is an organization that is working to accomplish that goal today. Its message is clearly stated on its website: “education is the great equalizer in the world, and books are at the foundation of a strong educational system.”

This inspiring organization controls all aspects of giving books to children in Africa; it collects donated books, sorts them, ships them, and distributes them to the children.

Since Books for Africa’s founding in 1988, they have shipped more than 38 million books to 49 different African countries. These are huge numbers that are making great strides for children’s education in Africa.

The Board of Directors has a multitude of factors that must work for the operation to be successful: do they have enough donations to send, will they have enough money to send the shipment, did they pick an African community that will actually use the books?

According to Publishers Weekly, “It costs $10,300 on average to ship each container by sea to Africa from the U.S.” With this expense, it is imperative for people to continue donating their books, time and money. Books for Africa is sure that its cause is making a difference.

Studies done by the World Bank, various researchers and Books for Africa have concluded that providing even one textbook can increase literacy rates by five to 20 percent.

One program focused on promoting education, Learn NC, concluded that reading a book does so much more than merely pronouncing the written words. Reading can spark discussion, promote engagement with others, transform the reader’s mind and inspire the reader to act.

Books for Africa promotes that a “gift of books truly is a gift of hope.” Ending global poverty can happen one book at a time.

Sydney Missigman

Photo: Flickr

holiday gifts
According to the National Retail Federation, Americans are projected to spend over $600 billion on holiday gifts during the 2014 season alone. A staggering statistic when compared to the fact that an estimated $40 billion would be necessary to provide clean water and sanitation, reproductive health for women and basic education, health and nutrition to every person living in a developing country worldwide.

Fortunately, many nonprofits, online marketplaces and charitable organizations are doing something to help redirect some of the money that Americans spend each holiday season to those who need it most. If you’re in the market for a gift that does double-duty this year, check out the following stores and nonprofit organizations for ample meaningful gift ideas:

1. Heifer International:

Give the gift of an animal in your friend or family’s name and help provide a family in a developing country with both food and a reliable source of income. Heifer International

2. Books for Africa:

Honor a friend or family with a book donation through Books for Africa (BFA), a non-profit dedicated to increasing literacy rates and children’s access to books in Africa. For donations of $50 or more, BFA will send a hand-written thank-you note to your honoree. $50 provides 100 books for a classroom. Books for Africa

3. Oxfam America Unwrapped:

Browse an endless array of gifts online—from goats and honeybees, to books and school meal programs for kids—and give to a family or child in need on behalf of a friend or family member. In return, a free, personalized card will be sent to the ‘gift-giver,’ along with a photo of the gift and information about how specifically it makes a difference in the lives of people living in poverty. Oxfam America Unwrapped

4. JADEtribe:

100 percent natural and ethical, JADEtribe’s bags, clothing and accessories truly embody the phrase “fashion with a conscience.” Each piece is handcrafted by women in South East Asia, and proceeds from JADEtribe purchases directly improve the lives of the female artisans who contribute to the company’s extensive selection. JADEtribe

5. Global Goods Partners:

Artisans living in third-world countries have an opportunity to sell their beautiful handmade goods on this online marketplace. Purchase a gift from this site, and a high percentage of sales will go directly back to the artisan who made it. Global Goods Partners

6. Ten Thousand Villages:

A fair-trade retailer since 1946, Ten Thousand Villages has stores across the United States, and an extensive collection of jewelry, clothing, kitchen and household items, and home décor, among many other gift ideas. The store partners with artisans around the world, in Bangladesh, India, Nigeria, Cambodia and Peru, among dozens of other countries. Its mission: sustain livelihoods, empower women, preserve cultural arts, and build global relationships. Ten Thousand Villages for online purchases or to find a store near you.

7. The Little Market:

Lauren Conrad’s e-commerce site, which is filled with vibrant, handmade goods, was created to serve as a platform for female artisans living in third-world countries worldwide to reach a wider audience. The proceeds for items such as jewelry, clothing, bags and ceramics go directly back to the women who made them. The Little Market

8. Bead for Life:

Bead for Life was founded to empower women in Uganda by helping them start their own bead-making businesses. The Beading Program provides women in impoverished countries with a steady source of income, derived from handcrafted beaded jewelry. Invite friends and family to shop for the cause by hosting a Beading Party from your home; a customized inventory of jewelry will be sent directly to your doorstep beforehand. Or order beads online. Bead for Life

Whether you’re giving a life-changing gift of an animal to a family in need, or wrapping a selection of handmade bags, scarves and jewelry that will help support the livelihood and businesses of female artisans worldwide, choosing a gift from the above list automatically makes you an ally in the fight against global poverty. Why not send a feel-good present or two this year, when it’s guaranteed to touch the friend or family member you’re choosing to honor, and to alter the lives of the person, family or community on its receiving end?

– Elizabeth Nutt

Sources: The Borgen Project, Info Wars
Photo: Nugget Market

donate to africa
When a child does not want to finish his or her food, a parent often says something along the lines of “Finish your food; there are starving children in Africa.” This statement and others like it represent the mentality most Americans grow up with. We know that much of Africa is impoverished, which leads to malnourishment in children, death from curable diseases, homelessness and much more. If we know all this, then why not help? Knowing that people across the world are suffering means that we should donate to Africa.

While Americans have access to a variety of medications and are able to see a doctor, many Africans are living with HIV/AIDS or curable diseases. But those diseases are not considered “curable” in Africa because they do not have half of the access that Americans have to medical help.

While Americans are getting an education for free and many progress to college, many children in Africa do not have the privilege of going to school.

Many people living in the U.S. think they are incapable of making a difference in someone’s life who is living across the world. But the reality is quite the opposite: there are plenty of organizations that allow people to get involved and donate to those living in poverty in Africa.

The word “donate” according to Merriam Webster’s Dictionary means, “to give in order to help a person or organization.” When people hear the word “donate,” they often think of giving away their money. Yes, sometimes it may mean donating money, but it also means giving away clothes, books, food and more.

Here is a list of organizations that you could go through to donate to people in Africa:

1. Donate Africa – This organization has two options on their website: Donate money (even $10 can make a difference) or donate goods. In the “donate goods” area you simply write what you are donating and a quick description.

2. Save the Children is another great and well-known organization that keeps people informed about what is going with people living in poverty. They make it easy to make a donation and even have PayPal as a choice of payment, which is sometimes a little more comforting for those donating.

3. Books for Africa – There are children in Africa who are starving for books, who are waiting to see the different pages to take them to another world just for a little bit. This organization allows you to donate money and makes sure that it goes to giving children books. Just $50 gives children 100 books.

4. SHARE Africa allows people not only to donate money, but to send nonperishable items that are appropriate for ages 5 to 18. The items are then distributed to children by staff workers in Kenya.

5. Heal Africa is an organization that is specifically geared toward helping Africa with its medical needs. Donations go to training doctors and medical health caretakers and also toward medication and facilities.

These are only a few organizations that you could get involved in to help those living in Africa. Just because they are far away does not mean they are out of our reach to make a difference.

– Priscilla Rodarte

Sources: SHARE Africa, Books for Africa, Merriam Webster, Save the Children, Donate to Africa
Photo: SHARE Africa

donated books
For millions of American students, July marks the beginning of summer and the completion of another year of school. Despite the grade level or location, many American students share one thing in common: stacks of books they will likely never open again. Stacks of already-read novels, or subject-and-grade-specific textbooks, will sit and collect dust for the remainder of their shelf lives.

There is a much smarter option for used books: donation. Taking five minutes to donate a pile of used books could change the life of a child or adolescent forever.

Today, 250 million children worldwide cannot read. Most of these children live in developing countries, and education affords them with one of the only opportunities to break the cycle of poverty: employment. But many children simply cannot acquire the necessary literacy skills because they lack access to libraries and an appropriate selection of books, not to mention physical classrooms and quality teachers.

Donating used books is an incredibly simple, powerful way in which we as a nation can help alleviate the global education crisis. Not sure where to start? Here are three organizations that can help you place your books into the hands of children who need them most:

1. Books for Africa (BFA) has shipped over 28 million books to 49 countries since 1988. BFA believes that a culture of literacy is truly the most empowering asset a community can have. The organization currently accepts: fiction and non-fiction books that are 15 years old or newer; primary, secondary and college textbooks; reference books (such as encyclopedias) published in 2003 or later; and medical, nursing and law books published in 1998 or later. A team of BFA volunteers sorts and packs these books, ensuring that each box of books is donated to the appropriate classroom or organization. For information on where to ship donations, please visit Books for Africa.

2. Better World Books (BWB) collects and donates books to support and fund literacy initiatives worldwide and also sells new books. Not only does the organization accept funds and book donations, but for every book purchased on BWB’s website, another book is donated to literacy programs worldwide. The organization boasts 10 million donated books to partner programs — including Books for Africa — around the world since its 2002 beginning. For information on how to donate books and what books are accepted, as well as directions for printing a shipping label for your donation, please visit Better World Books.

3.  Room to Read began in Nepal in 2000, when the organization began bringing donated books to rural communities in need. Today, the organization works globally and is dedicated to promoting and enabling education through programs focused on literacy and gender equality in education. Room to Read has thus far reached 7.8 million children by establishing school libraries, donating and publishing local-language children books and training teachers on literacy education. The organization has distributed 14,588,494 books worldwide since 2000. Though it’s not currently accepting book donations, Room to Read partners with Better World Books, a partnership that ensures that books are being placed where they’re needed most. The organization does accept monetary donations online at Room to Read.

If every child received an education, 170 million people would escape the chains of poverty. In a nation where education resources and tools are a given, we have a great responsibility — and opportunity — to contribute to the fight against the global achievement gap. Donating books or funds that support global literacy programs helps equip children in impoverished communities with the tools necessary not only to learn and succeed as students, but also to establish a better life for themselves, for their families and for generations to follow.

– Elizabeth Nutt

Sources: Global News, Better World Books, Room to Read, Books For Africa
Photo: All Things SD

Books For Africa Teams Up With The Peace CorpsBy pairing with the Peace Corps and other nonprofits, Books for Africa has become the world’s largest shipper of donated books to the African continent. With its headquarters based in St. Paul, Minnesota, Books for Africa has shipped nearly 27 million books to 48 countries in the past 25 years.

In countries where few classrooms have suitable resources, Books for Africa ship libraries of new scholarly and leisurely texts as well as new law and human rights texts. Classrooms in countries such as Ghana, Ethiopia and South Africa are filled with avid learners whose parents have sacrificed greatly to provide them with an education but often lack adequate supplies.

While many classrooms have adequate textbooks to constitute as reading material, noted on project organizer, the establishment of reading centers such as libraries indulge the hope that “Ethiopian children and their families will be able to experience the joys of reading and literacy activities directly.”

– Pete Grapentien

Source Huffington Post