This past Wednesday, March 9th, I had the opportunity to participate in World Read Aloud Day at the Johnston Public Library. Sponsored by LitWorld, the day was organized to “show the world that the right to read and write belongs to all people.” Citing that nearly one billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their name, LitWorld asked the question: What would you miss most if you could not read or write?
From my author table, ready to read the opening chapter of STORK aloud, a contingency of sixth graders from Van Meter, Iowa visited me. They asked me what it would be like if we couldn’t read or write. My response had been that stories, as they had been throughout the pre-literacy ages, would be shared orally. It was an okay answer, but as good questions often do, it has since nagged at me. I had envisioned the question as if—in some dystopian version of the world—reading and writing had been guarded as a privilege of the elite and as a power over the masses. In order to imagine a world without literacy, I had had to refigure history.
The sad truth of the matter is that for many in this world a life without the ability to read or write is a reality, not an academic exercise. With this in mind, I’d like to share information about the local event that I participated in as well as the broader scope of LitWorld’s goals.
The Johnston Public Library, headed up by Director Willona Goers, hosted the event. Angela Maiers, reading advocate and educational consultant, served as Ambassador. On hand to add expertise were: Iowa Public Television, and The State Library of Iowa. Author participants were myself and Rebecca Janni, author of Every Cowgirl Needs a Horse (Joan Klostermann-Ketels was unable to attend). And IPTV personality, the caped Dan Wardell, entertained with a fun skit.
The event, a lighthearted evening, had a profound message (one I have borrowed from Angela Maiers' press release):
Across the globe nearly 171 million children could be lifted out of poverty if they left school with basic reading and writing skills. Quality literacy education is the difference between life and death, prosperity and despair. This is literacy for survival.
World Read Aloud Day, sponsored by the non-profit, Litworld.org, is about taking action to show the world that the right to read and write belongs to all people. World Read Aloud Day (WRAD) motivates children, teens, and adults worldwide to celebrate the power of words, especially those words that are shared from one person to another, and creates a community of readers advocating for every child’s right to a safe education and access to books and technology. By raising our voices together on this day we show the world’s children that we support their future: that they have the right to read, to write, and to share their words to change the world.
In summary, I was honored to take part in the WRAD event. I applaud and support their mission. And I thank them for the reality check.