Today, on International Literacy Day, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) recognizes the vital importance of equitable access to literacy and education. To commemorate the day, USAID released a video featuring USAID Administrator Samantha Power and NASA astronaut Jessica Meir reading the book Grace in Space—a short, award-winning story written by Obai Al-Alloush and illustrated by Sara Wafeeq about a young girl who journeys to space.
The need for learners to access books is greater than ever. Studies, including from UNICEF, report that too many children do not have access to books at home. Grace in Space is one of many books on the open-source Global Digital Library, which is supported and managed by USAID with other donors and partners through the Global Book Alliance. The library is an online repository of more than 6,000 books, available in 83 languages, with titles available for use anywhere. The library helps break down physical barriers to accessing books, and is also accessible to those with disabilities.
Everyday, USAID’s education work in more than 50 countries around the world provides technical leadership and support to ensure that children and youth, particularly the most marginalized, have increased access to quality education, and that higher education institutions have the capacity to be central actors in development. From 2011-2017, USAID provided early grade reading instruction to 69.8 million children.
This work is even more important as we address the primary and secondary impacts of COVID-19, which have created new obstacles in preventing too many from safely and equitably accessing education. Last year, USAID/Dominican Republic’s Read program improved the reading skills of 200,000 students in more than 370 schools in targeted communities. In early 2021, USAID/Georgia and Georgia’s Ministry of Education launched “Book Buddies,” an interactive, online activity that promoted reading during the COVID-19 pandemic. Famous members of Georgian society read children’s books live on social media to encourage early grade reading.
Working with global and local country partners, USAID is reaching millions of people in support of literacy and reading. USAID encourages all supporters of literacy and reading to join us by sharing on social media how reading inspires you. Use the hashtag #ReadingInspires to post stories, photos of favorite books, or a video of you reading a children’s book or a book from the Global Digital Library.