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Sep 19, 2005


SandaweCalendar.jpgThe Sandawe were thrilled to receive their
new calendar. (Tanzania)

The Rewarding Job of Doing Literacy Work

Imagine living your life without books or any written information. Even in a post-literate age, that's hard to imagine. Yet that is the reality for millions of people all over the world. In almost all cases, it is the poor and marginalised who are denied access to literacy.

Do you have what it takes to be a literacy specialist? The following are all very valuable:

  • A love of teaching and passing on skills to others
  • Concern for the marginalised
  • A desire to serve and help others
  • Flexibility and tolerance
  • The ability to organise and manage people
  • Talent in art or graphics
  • Good communication skills
  • Commitment to being a team player
  • Enthusiasm for learning new languages and cultures

Adapted from Wycliffe UK

What Does Literacy Work Involve?

SandaweLiteracy.jpgSandawe literacy class. (Tanzania)
At the heart of literacy work is enabling individuals to learn to read and write so that they can enjoy the richness of the languages they know and use, and through the benefits that come from being literate, be able to fully participate in all aspects of life, locally and globally. Literacy specialists work with local communities, education providers and churches to teach adults and children to read and write. More strategically they work to equip others to teach adults and children to read and write. They also facilitate the writing and production of local language publications, both for teaching literacy, and for the development of an increasing body of local literature to support a growing readership. Critical to the success and sustainability of this endeavor is establishing literacy in the local as well as national and international languages, as a community value. The literacy team have a key role in promoting this value, through modelling effective literacy and by advocating for use of the mother tongue in early years of education. In this way they help to develop an environment that is supportive of ongoing language development and literacy.

In many language programs, literacy work goes on side by side with Bible translation and mother tongue Scripture promotion.

A literacy team is usually made up of literacy workers, who are speakers of the language and have good knowledge of the local language and culture, and literacy specialists who have received more extensive training in literacy principles and methods and who may be speakers of the language or may be other language speakers. Literacy consultants, with considerable literacy experience and expertise, provide valuable guidance and input into literacy programs

A typical literacy team will be involved in:

  1. Local training, supervision and administration
    • organizing and teaching courses
    • training and supervising literacy teachers
    • training writers and illustrators
    • office and program administration
    • planning and strategizing
    • networking with local churches, educators and leaders
  2. Material production in the language
    • drafting and publishing primers for educated and pre-literate language speakers
    • facilitating the publication of many other book titles on various topics (e.g. health, development, educational, humorous, historical, Scripture related)
    • producing training materials

Man readingThis Gungu man is probably looking
at the alphabet for his language
for the first time. (Uganda)
Local Languages Endorsed

The Ugandan government has adopted a bill mandating the development of an educational policy that includes the national (local) languages, alongside English. It stipulates that local languages should be the language of learning in primary 1-3. By passing this important bill the government recognizes the contribution of local languages in the overall development of the country.

Literacy Facts

  • International Literacy Day (September 8) is an occasion to remember that we should not take literacy for granted and to applaud the work of literacy workers and volunteers whose efforts make a difference to people’s lives.
  • Reading provides opportunities for individuals and communities to better themselves through improved health, higher paying employment and many other ways.
  • Literacy is a foundational skill, which gives entrance to the universe of books, to the Internet and to the Bible in a person's mother tongue.
  • Reading provides access to information, to instruction and edification.
  • Writing provides a means for expression and a method for the preservation of culture and for the dissemination of information.

Find out more: Statistics

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