Literacy in Our World
As part of this year’s “In A World of Service” theme, Lion’s International President Wayne Madden is challenging Lions to participate in the Reading Action Program to focus on increasing literacy and access to learning resources through their service. Literacy — the ability to read and write — is the foundation for education and social development. Yet hundreds of millions of adults lack minimum literacy skills and millions of school-aged children are not attending school to obtain them.
There are nearly 800 million people around the world today who cannot read. This fact is astonishing given how important one’s ability to read is for learning and development. Literacy not only forms the basis for individual academic, occupational, and social success, but it can also empower communities to fight poverty, reduce child mortality, achieve gender equality, and ensure peace and democracy.
The Reading Action Program is a call to action for every Lions club around the world to organize service projects and activities that underscore the importance of reading and address specific needs related to illiteracy within their own community.
Many clubs have already taken great strides to bridge the gaps in literacy and education. Clubs are promoting the importance of parents and children reading together, while addressing the need for healthy vision. Books have been donated along with free eye exams for parents and their children. The Kenai Lions have delivered over 100 dictionaries to local schools.
During the months of December and January, the Sleeping Lady Mountain Lions read to the children at the Chugiak Children’s Services. Lions and staff alike enjoyed their time with the children. They read to three classrooms and provided each class with books for the children to take home. The children were encouraged to ask their parents to read to them with their new books. Also, at the Book Shelf during December, a reading circle was held with local children for an hour of fun time reading a favorite book to the children. The next reading circle will be held at noon, January 26th at the Book Shelf, so please come join us.
Reading and School Readiness
Reading aloud to young children is one of the most effective ways to prepare children to succeed in school. However, many children — particularly those living in poverty — are not exposed to books and reading until they begin attending school. Research shows that books contain many words that children are unlikely to encounter frequently in spoken language. Children’s books actually contain 50 percent more rare words than primetime television or even college students’ conversations. How can you help a child succeed in school? Serve as a volunteer reader in your local schools, or organize a book drive.
Reading and Special Needs
Based on US statistics, only 10 percent of blind children are learning Braille.While audio devices are useful sources of information for blind people, only Braille offers complete command of written language. However, 85 percent of blind children attend public schools where few teachers know Braille. This percentage is even greater in developing countries that lack access to resources and teachers with Braille knowledge. Find organizations that you can work with to reverse this trend, such as the Alaska Center for the Blind.
Access to Information and the Digital Divide
Access to technology notably affects literacy rates. The Internet provides opportunities for people to improve their lives. When people go online, they can get health information, use government services, manage finances, look for jobs, and do research for school. For most people in developing and transitioning countries, quality Internet access is not available or affordable. There is a great inequality in the global distribution of information technology. Worldwide, approximately 5 billion people — nearly 90 percent of the world’s population — do not have an opportunity to use computers connected to the internet. Learn what the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is doing to bridge the digital divide and how you can help. The primary goal of the foundation’s U.S. Libraries Initiative is to help public libraries permanently sustain free access to computers and the Internet for people who need it most. The foundation believes helping libraries support high-quality technology services is one of the best ways to ensure that all people — regardless of their economic status, level of education, or where they live — have equal access to opportunity, information, and learning.
Technology for Facilitated Learning
Technology provides a wide variety of tools which can be used by people who are blind or have low vision to access information. The American Foundation for the Blind’s goal is to provide the information you need to learn about available technology and even discover new ways to use technology to enhance your everyday life. Learn about assistive technology products for individuals with visual impairments from Alaska Center for the Blind.
Books and Learning Resources
Before children can be taught effectively, schools or other educational institutions must be created and stocked with adequate teaching materials. Rural schools in many poor countries are severely limited in their supplies. They may lack textbooks, paper, desks, blackboards, chairs – even pencils. Without good textbooks or other classroom resources, more teachers cannot improve the quality of learning. Learn about ways you can help get resources into classrooms by contacting your local school district.
In the last year alone, Lions dedicated more than half a million service hours to education-related projects that benefited over 5 million children.
To learn more visit www.lionsclubs.org, or contact your local lions clubs.