Literacy, A Human Right

By Sandra Cook

International Literacy Day-September 8 (Sunday) or September 9 (Monday)

International Literacy Day is a global observance sponsored each year since 1966 by The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). UNESCO equates educational opportunity and literacy, emphasizing 21st century skills and health education around the world, “Literacy is a human right, a tool of personal empowerment and a means for social and human development. Educational opportunities depend on literacy.”


What are 21st century skills?

Consistent with Common Core Standards, 21st century skills and knowledge emphasize multiple literacies, interdisciplinary studies, health education, technology and dispositions that advance college and careers. For a more complete explanation, visit

Core Subjects and interdisciplinary studies:

  • Global Awareness
  • Financial, Economic, Business and Entrepreneurial Literacy
  • Civic Literacy
  • Health Literacy
  • Environmental Literacy

Learning and Innovation Skills

  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  • Communication and Collaboration

Information, Media and Technology Skills

  • Information Literacy
  • Media Literacy
  • ICT (Information, Communications and Technology) Literacy

Life and Career Skills

  • Flexibility and Adaptability
  • Initiative and Self-Direction
  • Social and Cross-Cultural Skills
  • Productivity and Accountability
  • Leadership and Responsibility

The International Reading Association (IRA) chose Career Skills for its Literacy Day celebration planned for September 9 in Washington, D.C. “Invent your Future” calls for schools to work with employers. For details, visit

International Reading Day

To learn more about IRA’s worldwide efforts, visit

IRA’s 2007 Literacy Fact Sheet can be found here:

Any publication from the IRA website should include this credit line:

Found on the International Reading Association’s website, which is updated periodically:

What can your reading council and its members do to celebrate International Literacy Day?

Local councils celebrate in numerous ways. Members share their favorite books and stories and preferred sources for news and information. They explain their commitment to education. Local reading councils celebrate International Literacy Day by conducting readings in schools and at meetings and having students interview family members and friends who love to read and learn, analyze different types of stories and explore ways they can take responsibility for their own learning.

Students also answer critical-level questions raised by UNESCO through reading, writing, speaking and viewing:

  • How is literacy empowering?
  • How does literacy contribute to social and human development?
  • Why are 21st century skills important?

How do you and/or your local council celebrate International Literacy Day?