Celebrating International Literacy Day in Sierra Leone
Jessica Faulkner, our Head of Communications, travelled to Sierra Leone earlier this month to visit the libraries and new projects that we have begun to support in 2016. While she was there, the Sierra Leone Library Board celebrated International Literacy Day (8th September) and Jessica went along to the celebrations in Freetown Central Library.
International Literacy Day is a chance for people around the world to celebrate the joy of reading and the opportunities it can bring. It is also a day to remember that there are still millions of people around the world who cannot read and whose future prospects are limited by this. For many of us, going without the sheer pleasure of reading a great book is hard to imagine.
The 21 libraries of the Sierra Leone Library Board have celebrated International Literacy Day for many years and 2016 was no different. This year, as we have just begun to support libraries in Sierra Leone, we were happy to supply a banner, posters, pencils and balloons for children to help the day go with a bang. Most importantly though, we also provided 100 brand new books to mark the day so that children could go back to their schools with the beginnings of a new library collection.
The new school term hadn’t started by 8th September in Sierra Leone but that didn’t stop children from turning up for the celebrations. As well as children of all ages, there were teachers, heads of schools and community members. We were treated to children reading aloud, reciting poems, telling us local stories and acting out short sketches on the importance of literacy and education in the 21st century. Their passion for reading was clear to see.
In a country like Sierra Leone, International Literacy Day is more than a celebration of books. It is a chance to encourage reading and to change the future direction of the country. Sierra Leone’s adult literacy rate stands at just 45%. This means that more than half of the adults in the country cannot help their children to learn to read. Their employment prospects are limited to jobs which do not require reading or writing. They cannot understand the instructions on a medicine bottle or read the many public health posters around the country about protecting against infection and preventing Ebola. That’s why days like these are so important. They remind communities of the importance of reading and they promote ways in which children can access books that can make a huge difference in their lives.
While I was in Sierra Leone, I also spent two days visiting rural schools in some of the more impoverished areas of the country. Through a partnership with Plan International we have begun supplying small collections of books to these schools – often the only books the school has. I met parents, teachers and children in the villages and was struck by the parents’ passion for their children’s education. Many of these parents are illiterate but they understand the value of education and literacy for their children. They want a better future for their children – a future where opportunities are not limited by illiteracy. This is what International Literacy Day is all about.
Book Aid International supported six partner countries to celebrate International Literacy Day in 2016 by providing promotional items, guidance and new books for children.