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How We Can Change the Story of Childhood Illiteracy


Dr. Geetha Murali

CEO, Room to Read

As global citizens, literacy is the conduit through which we communicate, empathize, and deepen understanding of our shared existence. Yet 1 in 10 people is unable to join the conversation because they cannot read or write.

If we want the next generation to become literate, lifelong readers and learners, we must invest in educational interventions that bridge the science of learning to read with the magic of loving to read.

A publishing system for all

Children’s book publishers have traditionally catered to a select book-buying audience, resulting in children’s literature that is limited or nonexistent in low-income communities. Not only is there a deficit of physical books (and libraries) in many schools around the world, but the books that do reach students are often in languages they don’t speak at home, with content that doesn’t reflect their lives, cultures or experiences. 

If we want to inspire a love and habit of reading among early learners, we must commit to creating storybooks that merge accessible topics, local languages, and beautiful storytelling so all children can experience the joy of reading.

Reading time is playtime

Libraries should be places children associate with fun and imagination, established with child-sized furniture, inviting colors, and stocked shelves. Schools should use a book leveling system that classifies books by reading skill level so students can easily self-select. Book check-out should be efficient, reinforcing the theme of accessibility and encouraging children to read for enjoyment at home. 

When schools make intentional choices that let children read and freely explore their libraries, it creates a habit of reading that becomes the foundation for future learning. 

Scroll down to register for the chance to win a $100 gift cards towards some new children’s books.

Equipping educators

An engaged teacher who knows how to nurture reading and writing skills is crucial in the fight against illiteracy. Early grade teachers, equipped with the right resources and support to provide in-class coaching, can help children decode sounds and words in a logical sequence, and build their confidence. 

This confidence can be further developed outside the classroom by parents and community leaders who recognize the value of literacy, urge children to read aloud, and immerse them in print-rich environments.  

Globally, more than half of primary school children cannot read proficiently. However, their stories can have a different ending. By investing in interventions that work, we can break the cycle of childhood illiteracy in a single generation.

Enter below to win a $100 gift card for children’s books from Workman Publishing, as well as a copy of How to Raise A Reader!

Dr. Geetha Murali, CEO, Room to Read, [email protected]

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