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“Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope.”— Kofi Annan

Use Your Voice: Celebrate the Right to Literacy this World Read Aloud Day

When you start reading in a room full of children, no matter what kind of chaos that room is in, they notice, and gradually, they start to listen. There’s a hush that comes with reading; there’s a peace that stories bring. Reading aloud has the power to capture a child’s imagination, to get them excited about reading and learning, to get them excited about expanding their view of the world. Many children have never had that opportunity. February 16 marks the eighth annual World Read Aloud Day (WRAD).

WRAD was started by the organization LitWorld to celebrate storytelling, reading aloud, and literacy belonging to everyone. LitWorld reported in 2015 that, “124 million children between the ages of six and fifteen have never started school, or have dropped out.” World Read Aloud Day and CAI both strive to ensure that those millions are remembered.

Central Asia Institute’s program Pennies for Peace (P4P) spends every day working to increase both awareness and funding for the millions of people with limited access to education. P4P is CAI’s service-learning program that gives U.S. students the opportunity to help educate children in Central Asia. There are currently 573 million women and girls in the world who are illiterate, and 31 million girls are out of school. Pennies for Peace wants to decrease that number, one penny at a time.

World Read Aloud Day is for All Ages

P4P is a service-learning program, where participants, made up of students of all ages, gather pennies and donate them to Central Asia Institute programs and projects. This year all P4P donations will go to re-building the Dasht School in Tajikistan. The program comes with K-12 curriculum that meet common core standards, allowing the students to learn about the people and cultures of Central Asia, gain a deeper understanding of philanthropy, and understand their own ability to have an impact. They learn the power that activism can have, whether you’re eight or eighty.

Leading up to World Read Aloud Day, there has been a seven-week countdown of reading themes to emphasize different concepts to the people, particularly the kids, participating in WRAD. They call it the 7 Strengths Countdown, with themes including belonging, curiosity, kindness, confidence, courage, and hope. All of these themes encourage kids to engage with stories and all the positive effects reading can have, especially when connecting with people they might not otherwise get to know. This matches the mission of Pennies for Peace: to learn about other cultures, connect with them, understand their problems, and find a way to help, even with a handful of pennies.

Education Happens Together

World Read Aloud Day can look like many things, from a parent reading to their child, to a classroom of students reading together, to a little girl reading to her parents around a fire.

When you imagine reading aloud with children, the image that comes to mind is an adult reading a story to a child who’s looking up at them with enraptured eyes. But in many of the communities CAI serves, the opposite is true. In these areas, many students are the first in their families to get an education. When CAI built libraries in communities, the teachers found that most of the time, the shelves were empty because the students took them home to read to their families. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but sometimes it can take a child to educate a village.

There are many ways to celebrate World Read Aloud Day. Maybe you’ll read aloud with a child or a classroom of children, or maybe it’s taking a trip to the local library. You may want to start your own Pennies for Peace fundraiser and engage your children, students, reading group, or church group in collecting pennies for girls’ education. Join us in taking part in World Read Aloud Day, engaging in the right to read, and remembering it’s a right that belongs to everyone.