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What-Are-You-Reading-Wednesday: Just read.

September 2, 2009

Written by Travis DiNicola, executive director of Indy Reads, in anticipation of World Literacy Day–Sept. 8. Visit www.indyreads.org to find out about World Literacy Day activities around Indianapolis.

Reading and writing is perhaps humanity’s greatest invention: and no one learns how to read on their own. This year I ask you to join us on World Literacy Day in celebrating literacy, the work done by Indy Reads volunteers, the success of our students, and your own ability to read. On Tuesday, September 8th, you can “Take Five to Read” as the whole city takes five minutes at 5pm to read. Just read. Read for pleasure. Read to a child. Read out loud. Read to yourself. Just read.

September 8 was proclaimed International Literacy Day (also known as World Literacy Day)  by UNESCO on November 17, 1965. It was first celebrated in 1966. Its aim is to highlight the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies. On International Literacy Day each year, UNESCO reminds the international community of the status of literacy and adult learning globally. Celebrations take place around the world.

The first time World Literacy Day was celebrated in Indianapolis was on September 8th, 1973. Then mayor, Richard Lugar, declared in a proclamation that as World Literacy Day was celebrated around the globe, we would celebrate here at home as well by honoring the Greater Indianapolis Literacy League (now known as Indy Reads, changing its name in 1998) for their work in training tutors to teach adults to read and write. He stated that illiteracy is a serious world problem, which prevents adults from full participation on our civic, social, and economic life. It continues to be so today.

That proclamation, signed by Senator Lugar, hangs on the wall next to the door to my office at Indy Reads. Every morning, as the Executive Director of Indy Reads, I am greeted by this reminder about the importance of the work we do. Indy Reads was founded in 1972 by a group of volunteers committed to eliminating illiteracy in Indianapolis. The organization has gone through many changes since then, but the vision remains the same: to make Central Indiana a better place to live by providing free tutoring to adults who struggle with reading and writing. Our goal is to “Make Indianapolis 100% Literate.”

The need has never been greater. One in five adults in our city are illiterate or semi-literate. This year we have already worked with more than double the number of adult students that we use to average for the entire year just two years ago. By the end of 2009 we will have reached more than 750 adults as long-term students, and at least another 100 through our short-term Literacy Labs. We are only able to do this through the work of more than 600 dedicated volunteers.

Will you “Take Five to Read”?

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