On September 7, 2001, SIL International joined with 20 other
participating organizations of the International Literacy Network
(ILN) to celebrate International Literacy Day.
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
first established International Literacy Day in 1968 to highlight literacy
issues that span the globe. The celebration this year in Washington, DC
was hosted by the Smithsonian Institute, where SIL participated with an
exhibit in the Ripley Center. Later that day SIL hosted a Leadership Luncheon,
specifically for the purpose of promoting discussion on the effectiveness
and impact of the network. Ongoing partnerships within the International
Literacy Network allows SIL and other member organizations to work
together to have more impact than any one of them could have alone in
the fight against illiteracy.
September 8, SIL was also involved in the First Lady's Book Festival at
the Capitol building with an exhibit in the popular Great Ideas pavilion.
The focus of the SIL exhibit was "Literacy in Languages of the World."
The exhibit highlighted the Ethnologue:
Languages of the World, volumes that describe 6,800 languages,
in addition displaying other literacy-related print and CD resources produced
and made available by SIL. One popular activity connected to the exhibit
gave young people an opportunity to practice writing their names in hieroglyphics.
Organizers of the event estimated that between 20,00025,000 people
attended the national book festival this year.
Literacy is recognized by SIL as a key that unlocks a whole new world
of information and communication options. Yet even in the twenty-first
century, illiteracy remains a serious issue around the world, particularly
in developing countries. The numbers are staggeringone billion illiterates
in the world, two-thirds of these are women, and one-half of world illiterates
are speakers of lesser-known languages.
SIL members are working in over 1,000 of those lesser-known languages
in their commitment to the endangered languages and marginalized minority
peoples of the world. Fieldworkers partner with national colleagues and
work along with local communities in: linguistic analysis, orthography
design (in the cases where an alphabet does not already exist, including
non-Roman scripts), literacy programs and materials development, and literature
production. By participating in the International Literacy Day celebration
SIL hopes to promote an awareness for the global disparancies in literacy
particularly among minority languages groups worldwide.
Article contributed by Pat Kelley, International Literacy Coordinator,