It’s International Literacy Day!

… What better date to open the floodgates of my new social media focusing on Literature & Literacy.

What do books mean to me? Brief thoughts.

I’m a story-teller as well as a story-reader. Books become friends, mentors and therapists, and my own book has become a brainchild for me. No matter which way you choose to interact with stories, once you start reading or writing, you learn, love, imagine more things than you could in a story-less lifetime.

A Harry Potter book can make you believe in magic, experience flight on a broom and, fun fact: according to this post, it can even help you master a language!

Which is a not-so-subtle transition to the next section of my brief thoughts.

UNESCO’s conference topic for today is ‘Literacy and Multilingualism’.

While UN’s leaders and participants explore policies and objectives to expand “mother language-based, multilingual approaches to literacy”, I’d like to briefly reflect on how books and languages have expanded my own horizons.

I am fortunate enough to be native in 3 languages and proficient in a fourth. Each one’s alphabet is different. There’s the “P” that can mean both an R and a P depending on the language, there’s the “Ř” which is an impossible sound to imitate in English (“rzh?” “rsh?” “zrh?”) and there’s the wonderful letter “Q” that should be written instead of the word queue when talking about lines of people, but for some reason isn’t…

Just these few examples provide sufficient evidence that reading and writing in a language only slightly different to your own can be rather complex. But what if your native language uses logograms? Or any other script but Latin? Learning the meaning behind letters and characters can become much more difficult then.

Personally, I started really learning languages as soon I was able to speak, which has given me the advantage of becoming fluent, fast. I’ve been provided with fairytales and textbooks to help me on my way. The reading I have done in each language has brought me a deeper understanding of the words’ meaning, their synonyms and sometimes etymology.

But imagine that your only chance at an education is an un-inclusive school where you don’t speak the language of instruction, even if it’s in your country… What if you have no proper books to practice your reading… Or no proper teacher…

Although I’m not attending their conference, I have every faith that UNESCO will come up with solutions for global illiteracy in the context of multilingualism. And there’s some simple advice for you and I: we can all do a little to help.

Happy International Literacy Day!