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Building Connection Through Literacy

September 8, 2015

Today you received a letter and it read: To my best friend, It has been quite some time since we last spoke, but I wanted to let you know what an incredible source of joy you have been in my life. You mean the world to me. With love

Imagine the wonderful feeling you get from receiving a message from someone you love. Whether it is a text message saying “good luck on your presentation today!” or an email to catch up with a friend you haven’t heard from in some time, writing has been a reliable way for people to keep in touch and stay connected.

Even more so, with advances in technology, staying in touch has become much easier. However, in a time where progress is moving at an unstoppable pace, there are still many people that we are leaving behind, those people that cannot read or write.

UNESCO estimates that there are still 757 million adults and nearly 115 million youth that cannot read or write a simple sentence. Illiteracy means the loss of things as simple as a love letter or a thank you card. But even more than a simple letter, without being able to read or write, a person’s ability to build bridges that extend beyond the confines of their immediate circle are fractured. In many ways, illiteracy means the loss of opportunities.

Being unable to share stories and connect to the world around you limits a person’s access to some of the most important aspects of life. This form of isolation makes it so that a person unsurprisingly stays disconnected. This does not only have adverse affects on the individual but results in social disconnection more broadly at the community and regional levels.

Put simply, development without literacy or support for literacy is extremely difficult.To really begin building these bridges and eliminate isolation we need to ensure that people are able to share and tell their stories. We need to ensure that literacy is among our top priorities.


New technologies, including mobile telephones, also offer fresh opportunities for literacy for all. We must invest more, and I appeal to all Members States and all our partners to redouble our efforts – political and financial – to ensure that literacy is fully recognized as one of the most powerful accelerators of sustainable development. The future starts with the alphabet.”  — UNESCO Director-General

Today, on International Literacy Day, we invite you to reflect on the ways that you are helping to promote literacy as a way to increase social connection within your own community.