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Did you know that September 8th is International Literacy Day? If not, don’t feel bad – it’s not nearly as popular as some other globally-celebrated holidays, but it’s just as important and worth celebrating. International Literacy Day was established by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1966, and for the past 51 years the world has come together to promote the benefits of reading and advocate for improved literacy rates across all corners of the world.

Currently, UNESCO estimates there are at least 750 million people worldwide, including 102 million individuals between the ages of 15 and 24, who lack basic literacy skills. In the United States, recent surveys have found that over 30 million adults cannot read at a high school level. And research has shown that children whose parents cannot read well have a 72% greater chance of becoming illiterate themselves – and in turn, are at a heightened risk of receiving poor grades, exhibiting behavioral problems in school, skipping class, and ultimately dropping out prior to graduation. The statistics are beyond startling: a report issued by the New York Council on Children and Families states that students who struggle to read by the end of the 3rd grade are unlikely to graduate from high school.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Reading, however, is one of those fun activities that can be done anytime and anywhere. Even if you live in an area where there aren’t any International Literacy Day events, why not get ask a librarian for a book recommendation, spend 30 minutes every night reading to your child, or even volunteer with an organization like Learn to Read that pairs tutors with adults who struggle with illiteracy. The Jacksonville Humane Society even has a fun program called “Pawsitive Reading” where children can practice their skills by reading to the shelter’s dogs and cats! City Year recognizes the importance of promoting literacy, and our AmeriCorps members are trained to work with students to help them develop this crucial life skill. Here in Jacksonville, we partner with ReadUSA, an all-volunteer nonprofit whose mission is to combat illiteracy one book fair at a time by providing students at Title 1 elementary schools with the opportunity to bring home three free books.

City Year Jacksonville proudly partners with ReadUSA at George Washington Carver Elementary and Susie E. Tolbert Elementary, and provides additional support at the other school sites where ReadUSA operates. What is most incredible is that as an all-volunteer organization, 100% of every dollar donated to ReadUSA is used to provide free books to children.

For more information about how you can get involved with ReadUSA, please visit:

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