World Read Aloud Day is celebrated on the first Wednesday in February and takes place on February 1 this year. This is a day dedicated not just to reading, but to the art and practice of reading aloud. Stories were passed down from generation to generation even before writing was invented. Oral forms of storytelling were the earliest way of preserving human knowledge, insight, and creativity. This day helps us bring this tradition back to reading while promoting literacy.
History of World Read Aloud Day
LitWorld is a non-profit organization working in the field of education, and literacy in particular. Their mission statement reads, “Strengthening kids and communities through the power of stories.” Reading aloud has been proven to benefit children and their caregivers by improving spelling, as listeners hear the proper enunciation of words. It also increases social bonding and empathy where listeners relate to the characters in the stories. This is what the day seeks to achieve.
In 2010, they launched the first World Read Aloud Day to promote diverse voices and narratives around the world. Now it’s become a truly global movement with a record of having trended on Twitter and many celebrity endorsements. According to their website, the day celebrates “the joy and power of reading and sharing stories,” and “expanding the definition and scope of global literacy.” The good news is that the world is more literate now than ever before. The youth literacy rate for people between the ages of 15 to 24 increased from 87,286 in 2010 to 90,537 in 2019. There is a similar upward curve for adult literacy rates around the world.
There are still, however significant differences in literacy throughout the world, with Chad registering a female youth literacy rate of a mere 22% in 2016. There are also a few other countries in sub-Saharan Africa like Niger, Mali, and the Central African Republic that fare below 50% as recently as 2018. World Read Aloud Day is one initiative that seeks to address these inequalities.
World Read Aloud Day timeline
The ancient Sumerians are credited with the invention of writing.
The Chinese edition of “Diamond Sutra” has been credited as the first modern printed book in the world.
The American Foundation of the Blind starts producing audiobooks for people with visual impairments.
This global movement is kickstarted by LitWorld.
World Read Aloud Day FAQs
Can I read aloud to myself?
While the purpose of the day is to read to and along with children, or even other adults, you can always use it as an opportunity to practice your own narrative skills.
Where can I find resources for the day?
There are many activities, reading lists, and podcasts that are available on sites like LitWorld and Scholastic. They have activity hubs and challenges with resources available to participate in World Read Aloud Day.
How is literacy measured?
Measuring literacy worldwide is a complicated exercise because of the varying definitions of literacy and the different methods used. For example, in some instances reports are declared based on individual self-assessment as opposed to more reliable literacy tests. This also creates a challenge when comparing data across countries.
How to Observe World Read Aloud Day
This is a great opportunity to pick your child’s favorite book and take turns reading it. Adding character to the protagonists of the story through voice makes the experience more entertaining. If you already do that and want to try something different, you could just retell the stories you may have heard from your parents and grandparents.
Tweet the hashtag
#WorldReadAloudDay was a top trending hashtag on Twitter in February 2020. Apart from the children, families, and schools that participate in the day across the world, celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker and Chelsea Clinton have also tweeted the hashtag to do their bit for literacy. This is a great time to join in and raise awareness around this important movement.
Listen to an audiobook
If you love to read but can never find the time to, listening to an audiobook is a great alternative. If you’re enthusiastic enough about the story, it may even motivate you to recount it to someone else. Gifting an audiobook or subscription to a child or friend is another way of inspiring the love of books.
5 Facts About World Read Aloud Day
The day is global
There are 173 countries that currently participate in World Read Aloud Day.
Inequality in literacy rates
Sub-Saharan Africa fares the worst in literacy rates in the world and South Asia is second.
Literacy levels keep rising
According to UNESCO, the world literacy rate has risen 5% every decade since 1950.
Children’s books were religious
“Spiritual Milk for Boston Babes” was a catechism written by the minister John Cotton and released in the U.S. in 1656 as the first children’s book.
Audible was the first digital audiobook player
In 1997, Audible, then an independent company, allowed members to download up to two hours of audio, including books.
Why World Read Aloud Day is Important
It makes kids better people
Research has proven that reading fiction improves compassion in children and adults. It opens us up to opinions different from our own and diversity in worldviews. It also gives us the opportunity for improved self-esteem when we read books that reflect our culture and circumstances.
It’s a bonding exercise
One of the most universal ways of bonding with children involves some form of storytelling. This day is a great time to establish connections if you haven’t already, not only by reading aloud to your children but to those in your community.
It’s a great cause
There are huge disparities in literacy levels between countries and genders around the world. We still have a long way to go to improving access to and the quality of education in underprivileged societies. This day helps raise awareness around this important cause.
World Read Aloud Day dates