It’s not coincidence that #ReadABook Day falls this month. UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has declared September National Literacy Month and, with it, come many days dedicated to the promotion of reading. In addition to today, September 8th marks International Literacy Day. The theme for the conference, held in France this year, is “Literacy in the Digital World.” The goal is to actively mobilize the international community and to promote literacy as an instrument to empower individuals, communities and societies.
While researching for this article, I was surprised to learn that over 775 million adults lack minimum literacy skills. The statistic is that one in five adults are illiterate and two-thirds of those are women. To bring awareness to this issue and to advocate for reading and literacy, UNESCO began National Literacy Month in 1946.
Today, I created a book recommendations list of YA books including characters that struggle to read or are illiterate and tell you about some organizations that you can support in the fight against illiteracy.
The Reader: Sefia lives in a society where the history is oral–it’s not written in any way, shape or form. At one point, she must define what a book is to another character and it left me feeling so very shocked. I was fascinated to see something that I take for granted defined to it’s basic levels.
A Court of Thorn and Roses: Feyre wasn’t afforded the basic privileges that her sisters were, including learning to read. As the main bread winner for her family, she becomes a hunter until she kills the wrong the wrong wolf and is sent to live out the remainder of her days in the Spring Court. Once she relaxes, she utilizes her time with Tamlin to learn to read.
The Sinner Eater’s Daughter: When Lief discovers Twylla can not read, he attempts to help her learn. While it does become part of their love story, there is an element of patience and tenderness that I adore about this aspect of their relationship.
Fangirl: Levi is not really a book person, but it’s not why you’d think. He has difficulty reading and it shows again how illiteracy and difficulty reading can become a hidden stigma, even in college. One of the sweetest scenes in the book is when Cath reads Levi The Outsiders for his class assignment.
Timekeeper: Colton, sweet clock tower ghost, object of Danny’s affections can not read. Danny invests in his relationship with Colton by reading aloud to him and you fall more in love with this duo with every book they tackle.
Six of Crows Duology: Wylan is cruelly treated and eventually disowned by his wealthy father because of his illiteracy. Bardugo does a masterful job of portraying the stigma of his inability to read that will leave you gutted.
Wintersong: Although it is never explicitly stated, there is strong implication that Josef seemingly can not read or write anything but music throughout this book. It lead to some very interesting book club discussion about how you can hide in plain site when you’re illiterate.
WHAT CAN YOU DO HELP?
There are an abundance of not-for-profits dedicated to literacy. While we have selected a few national and international groups that are very highly rated by Charity Navigator, but also check your local organization as well.
Reading is Fundamental: Reading is Fundamental is committed to a literate America where all children have the opportunities that literacy provides.
Room to Read: Rooms to Read is a leading non-profit focused on girls’ education and children’s literacy in Asia and Africa.
Reach Out & Read: Reach Out & Read gives young children a foundation for success by incorporating books into pediatric care.
Are there other books with characters that can’t or have trouble reading that were missed on this list? If so, please leave your suggestions in the comments below.