Literacy: an opportunity

Jul 30, 2012

Imagine a young girl, whose teacher assigns a report. She immediately gets nervous and considers her options: get someone else to do it, accept a failing grade, leave school altogether … or admit she can’t read.

Perhaps she does what she can to get through the school years and enters the workforce to support her family. One day, her boss assigns an online questionnaire. Will she find a way around it, leave her job … or admit to a problem that still persists?

Illiteracy and low literacy regularly keep people from achieving their best – and often lead to desperate decisions.

According to UNESCO, more than 774 million young people and adults do not have the basic literacy and numeracy skills they require to participate fully in society. That’s almost one in five of the adult population.

A recent report noted that while literacy is on the rise globally, in some regions of high population growth, the absolute number of those without literacy is actually growing.

So what can we do about it?

VOLUNTEERS.

The most immediate way to help is to roll up your sleeves and work with someone who needs extra assistance. At Amway headquarters, our employees regularly exchange letters from students at schools with low literacy rates. This simple act motivates children to practice their skills and get rewarded by meeting their “pen pal” each year. Amway distributors in the United States also work directly with at-risk children whose parents have been incarcerated. And Amway distributors in Taiwan and Korea help children with their homework through afterschool programs.

TOOLS.

In some communities, access to books and reading materials is a major barrier, and an investment in providing resources can make all the difference. In Thailand, the Amway Flying Book program sends books to remote, rural areas of the country. In China, the Amway Project Sunshine program builds school libraries for children of migrant families. In India, the Amway Opportunity Foundation provides Braille books and specialized computers for visually impaired youth.

INFRASTRUCTURE.

Sometimes schools and desks are in short supply and prevent learning from taking place. In South Africa, Amway has sponsored customized Lap Desks where schools do not have enough resources and space to have a desk for every child. In Turkey, Amway has built preschools in poor, remote areas with funds raised by distributors and employees across Europe.

One of the best ways to unlock the potential of a child – or an adult – is to help them to read. In big and small ways, we can help right now, right where we are.

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