It has been estimated than a billion people--one-fourth of the world's population--are unable to read.  Illiteracy of adults and children is a global concern in both highly industrialized nations and in developing countries. The number of adult illiterates in the world is increasing by 25 million each year! In the United States, one quarter of the entire population is considered functionally illiterate. The tragedy of illiteracy is that those who cannot read lose personal independence and become victims of unscrupulous manipulation, poverty and the loss of human feelings which give meaning to life. Illiteracy is demeaning. It is a major obstacle for economic, political, social and personal development. Illiteracy is a barrier to international understanding, cooperation and peace in the world. Literacy education was considered a program priority by Rotary's original Health, Hunger and Humanity Committee in 1978. An early 3-H grant led to the preparation of an excellent source book on the issues of literacy in the world. The Rotary sponsored publication, The Right to Read, was edited by Rotarian Eve Malmquist, a past district governor from Linkoping, Sweden, and a recognized authority on reading and educational research. The book was the forerunner of a major Rotary program emphasis on literacy promotion. In 1985 the R.I. Planning and Research Committee proposed, and the R.I. board approved, that the Rotary clubs of the world conduct a ten-year emphasis on literacy education. Many Rotary clubs are thoughtfully surveying the needs of their community for literacy training. Some clubs provide basic books for teaching reading. Others establish and support reading and language clinics, provide volunteer tutorial assistance and purchase reading materials. Rotarians can play a vitally important part in their community and in developing countries by promoting projects to open opportunities which come from the ability to read.

 
 
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