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Literacy Means So Much More Than Reading and Writing

Photo: Courtesy of World Literacy Foundation

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, literacy is the ability to read and write. However, while reading and writing is necessary, it is not enough to contribute to the progress of society as a whole. Instead, we must move beyond reading and writing and toward critical thinking.

Critical thinking skills are a direct result of access to quality education. Literate students use the knowledge they have gained through rich discussions in the classroom and apply it to new and differing contexts. 

Through these discussions, students are able to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate what they learn. In turn, this empowers them to challenge the assumptions and implications of ideas and institutions, and to take action on important issues. Consequently, this breeds a generation with the knowledge, skills, and commitment necessary to change the world. 

A generation for change

This next generation comprises the future employees, leaders, teachers, and advocates for social change. How can they succeed at any of these tasks without access to quality education? 

The importance of literacy and education in fostering personal autonomy and critical thinking skills is particularly pertinent for marginalized groups. Literacy proficiency allows people to contribute to and participate in the discourse that shapes their community and the world.

Thus, breaking the cycle of illiteracy and improving self-esteem is crucial to pursuing opportunities, making informed decisions, and having a say in legislative processes; liberties we often take for granted.

So as the world observes Sept. 8 as International Literacy Day, we first need to acknowledge how much literacy encompasses. Not only is reading and writing the bedrock for personal success, it is also key to fostering social responsibility, freedom, and empowerment. 

Therefore, in times of misinformation, prejudice and widespread political propaganda, critical thinking is a fundamental skill for the future of the next generation of change-makers.

Charlee Standley, Youth Ambassador Coordinator, World Literacy Foundation, [email protected]

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