At this school in Vietnam, World Vision has helped to establish a bird house library so children can borrow books to improve their reading. Photo by Le Thiem Xuan, World Vision
Imagine your local library for a second. Or your school library. Isn’t it great how you don’t have to physically visit it to gain access to its information? We can search the catalogue, download e-books, and ask the virtual librarian a question via our smart phones. The physical space of the library, and the way in which librarians provide access to its content, is continuously changing. Yet despite this, the fundamental objectives of the library remain the same – to provide access to information and to assist in the advancement of literacy. Why am I telling you this? Well, this week is Library and Information Week. A week that’s dear to my biased librarian heart.
Imagine if you couldn’t read. Imagine if you couldn’t write. It is hard to believe it, but there are many parts of the world where this is still the case not only for children, but adults too. Places that have been affected by war, natural disaster or disease. Places where classrooms don’t have textbooks or computers, or a teacher or librarian to help children read. Illiteracy in a child puts them at an extreme disadvantage from the offset, and when coupled with the hurdle of being born into a community that does not have ready access to life’s necessities this disadvantage is magnified.
I think UNESCO says it pretty well: “Literacy is a fundamental human right and the foundation for lifelong learning. It is an instrument of empowerment to improve one’s health, one’s income, and one’s relationship with the world.”
I am World Vision Australia’s Photo Librarian. As such, I have the unique opportunity to see the vast array of photographs and stories gathered by my colleagues, as we communicate World Vision’s work to our supporters and the wider Australian public. Many images tell the story of how literacy and the education standards of those who need it most can be improved.
During the Ebola outbreak, World Vision assisted by providing radios to children so they could continue their learning by listening to their teachers over the airwaves. Child Friendly Spaces have recently been set up in Nepal after the devastating earthquakes where children can safely play. These spaces also include transition schools, where children may adequately prepare for when they eventually return to formal education.
Our generous donors enable libraries to be built in communities and fill them with books. Our ‘Gifts In Kind’ program ensures new textbooks and stationery helps to improve education quality and motivates children to attend school in communities that don’t have ready access to these items.
Established in 2011, ‘All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development’ is a partnership between World Vision, US AID and the Australian Government. This partnership exists to challenge local and international organisations to propose innovative solutions to address illiteracy rates in children.
Examples such as the above show how important improving literacy is in all of the areas in which we work. The impact which World Vision makes on global literacy rates could not be achieved without the generous support of Australians who have responded to emergency appeals, donated school materials, or funded schools and libraries in the areas in which we are active.
The theme of this Library & Information Week is ‘Imagine’. It is a chance to celebrate all things library and information. I don’t have to imagine World Vision’s commitment to improving the literacy of those in the world where it is needed most. I can see the proof.