Promoting quality education for all.

Raj Shah and Rep. Lowey joined by astronauts, Muppets for International Literacy Day

September 13, 2011

Source: ONE Blog

You may have read somewhere that last week was International Literacy Day. To mark the occasion, USAID, the Education for All-Fast Track Initiative and the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution put on an impressive event with an important theme –- All Children Reading.

After we were all greeted by Bert and Ernie, USAID Administrator Raj Shah highlighted the main goal of USAID’s education strategy -– to improve the reading skills of 100 million children by 2015. Basic education, particularly teaching children to read in primary school, not only ensures children have a sturdy foundation upon which to learn, but also translates to improved health and economic growth in developing countries. No one in Congress is better at championing the importance of education for all children than Representative Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.

Thanks to her leadership, the US played a critical role in sending more than 46 million African children to school for the first time between 1999 and 2008. So it was no surprise that Administrator Shah presented Rep. Lowey with the first annual USAID Literacy Champion award.

Representatives from Ministries of Education in Ethiopia, Mozambique, Liberia and Nicaragua shared success stories from their education programs, such as incorporating first language instruction in primary schools. This is not an easy feat in a country like Ethiopia, where there are 80 different languages. Ethiopia’s education sector development plan will ensure curriculum, teaching materials and learning assessments are translated, and primary school will be taught in 24 languages.

Organizations around the world are helping to advance literacy in the developing world in exciting new ways, most of which have to do with exposing children to words -– something that is more important and more difficult than it sounds. Some programs are building and encouraging the use of libraries, or encouraging parents to read to their children, and later their children to read to them. A 20-year strong dictation contest last year drew millions of applicants — 1.5 million from Africa alone. I got to fiddle with a talking book that not only helps kids learn how to read and how to learn, but that provides practical information for parents on other topics, like farming and health, helping them to better provide for their children.

After talking about how technology can bridge the gaps in education, this video from NASA filmed especially for the occasion was a poignant reminder that the theme of the day -– All Children Reading -– is a lofty goal we must achieve. Children who are able to read will be healthier, live longer and dream bigger, and that’s something to fight for.

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