Why literacy development?


a mother-tongue literacy class in a rural area

Obviously, if people can’t read, then having a Bible to read doesn’t much help. One solution is to put the Bible into audio form and give people a device to listen to it that way. Our organization works on a number of projects that do just that. However, literacy is also important for two reasons: one is that being able to read the Bible is far less limiting – it does not require a special device (with a power source), and it allows people to access different parts of scripture more easily. Secondly, literacy development in itself is a crucial step for most people groups. Some people have a false notion that minority people groups should simply be left alone and we shouldn’t change their culture by, for example, teaching them to read and thereby making them more dependent on the outside world. However, minority people groups are definitely not isolated from the outside world, and are generally marginalized by the majority cultures around them, which is exacerbated by their lack of education. In fact, the literacy rate is often considered a key indication of development, affecting poverty, health, gender equality, political representation, etc. When people can read, they are more likely to be able to access medical information, develop marketable skills, and preserve aspects of their culture through written history. Invariably, when people have a written language, they view their own cultural identity with significantly greater respect.

A few statistics about literacy among minority language groups:

  • 20% of the world’s population speaks one of the lesser-known “minority” languages as their mother-tongue.
  • Of those who speak minority languages, the average adult literacy rate is about 31%.
  • About 50% of all illiterate adults in the world are from minority language groups.

More about our organization’s work in language development and literacy around the world can be found here.

Next: What do we do?