04.09.2009 -

UNESCO celebrating International Literacy Day on 8 September

A presentation by former First Lady of the United States Laura Bush is on UNESCO’s programme for International Literacy Day on 8 September. Other key events include the ceremony to award the 2009 UNESCO Literacy Prizes, a visit from the “Camion des Mots” (word truck) travelling computer classroom, and a meeting of translators of the Harry Potter books.

In line with the United Nations Literacy Decade (2003-2012) calendar, International Literacy Day puts the spotlight this year on the empowering role of literacy and its importance for participation, citizenship and development.

Koïchiro Matsuura, the Director-General of UNESCO, and Mrs Bush, in her role as Honorary Ambassador for the UN Literacy Decade, will speak at the International Literacy Day opening at UNESCO Headquarters (Room II, 10 a.m.). The award ceremony for the 2009 UNESCO International Literacy Prizes will follow (10.30-11.30 a.m). Innovative projects taking place in India and Burkina Faso will receive the awards of the UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize, while projects operating in Afghanistan and the Philippines will be honoured with the awards of the UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy, and a programme in Bhutan will receive an Honourable Mention.

The International Literacy Day lecture on “Literacy and Empowerment” (11.45 a.m.-1 p.m., Room II) will be given by renowned expert on literacy and development Dr Lalage J. Bown, Emeritus Professor of Adult and Continuing Education, University of Glasgow (United Kingdom). Then, from 2 to 3 p.m. (Room IX), the winners of the 2009 UNESCO Literacy Prizes will present their respective programmes at a round table.

Meanwhile, the “Camion des Mots” will be parked at UNESCO’s entrance to launch its fifth annual tour with some 60 schoolchildren from the Paris suburbs (11.30-11.45 a.m.). The truck, a mobile computer classroom whose sponsors include the French insurance company MAIF, the French magazines Lire and L’Express and the French Ministry of Education, travels around France visiting schools to encourage reading and writing among 8- to 15-year-olds through interactive games. At the same time “Un cahier, un crayon” (a notebook, a pencil) will be presented, an initiative organized by the humanitarian organization Solidarité Laïque with French insurance companies MAE and MAIF through which children collect basic learning materials to send to developing countries; this year’s campaign will benefit Burkina Faso.
Finally, translators responsible for some 20 different language versions of the hugely successful Harry Potter book series, which has fired enthusiasm for reading in countless children around the world, will gather at a conference in Paris. The meeting, under the patronage of UNESCO, will examine the role of translation in enhancing literacy and cross-cultural understanding. Kevin Watkins, director of UNESCO’s Education For All Global Monitoring Report, will moderate one of the sessions. (Fondation Simone et Cino del Duca, Institut de France, 9 a.m.- 6.30 p.m.)

International Literacy Day is an opportunity to highlight that while the empowering role of literacy and its significance for development have been recognized worldwide, there are still 776 million illiterate adults in the world and 75 million children out of school. “Literacy, in fact, is by far the most neglected goal on the Education for All (EFA) agenda,” Mr Matsuura underlines in his International Literacy Day Message.




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