As Friends of the Library, we all share a love of reading. But did you know that there are approximately 771 million people worldwide who lack basic literacy skills? In the United States, a shocking 1 in 5 adults have low literacy skills, while in NC 26% of adults lack a high school diploma.

Closer to home, 17% of adults in Brunswick County are considered illiterate. As staggering as those statistics are, we’ve actually made great progress in literacy over the last half century, thanks in large part to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). To draw attention to the importance of literacy as a matter of personal dignity and fundamental human rights, UNESCO first declared an observance called “International Literacy Day” in 1966.

Celebrated on September 8 th each year, International Literacy Day has expanded its reach worldwide over the years, partnering with schools, social agencies, and governments to advocate the literacy agenda for a more literate and sustainable society. Literacy is important not only for individuals, but for communities and society as a whole. Lack of literacy skills leads to increased vulnerability and prejudice.

Statistics show direct connections between illiteracy, poverty, and poor health. In our neck of the woods, most of the people who lack literacy are living well below the poverty line. The moral, financial, and societal implications are compelling.

The theme for International Literacy Day in 2022, “Transforming Literacy Learning Spaces,” is intended to prompt a rethinking of the importance of literacy learning spaces to ensure quality, equitable education for everyone. This includes schools, tutoring centers, childcare facilities, non-profit facilities, and libraries. Brunswick County libraries not only serve as learning places for children and adults, they also offer space that is utilized by literacy tutors who work with the Brunswick County Literacy Council.

Brunswick County Literacy Council, a non-profit located in Supply, provides help to improve literacy skills for adults, including one-on-one tutoring for reading, writing, and math; GED assistance, English as a Second Language, basic computer literacy, and financial literacy. A team of dedicated volunteers who are passionate about literacy, spend countless hours working with individuals who yearn to improve their situation, providing them with a pathway toward a better future.

FOLSOI and BCLC have a strong, long-standing partnership, driven by mutual goals. Did you know that teams from FOLSOI have been participating in the BCLC’s annual spelling bee for years, and they frequently win! So how can you be a part of the movement generated by International Literacy Day? Consider taking a role with the Brunswick County Literacy Council; volunteers are always needed to tutor, but also to help with administrative tasks and property maintenance. Donate to your local library in support of improved resources or facilities, or consider ways to support reading initiatives in our local schools.

In the words of the UNESCO Director-General, Audrey Azoulay, “At a time when we need to reinvent a world of hope, literacy is more important than ever.”