Today’s celebration of International Literacy Day 2013 is an opportunity for the international development community to reflect upon and reinvigorate its approach to ensuring that all children are able to read and write. In recent years, a shift from focusing primarily on access to an increased focus on learning, particularly foundation skills such as reading and writing, has been an important step for children worldwide. At the same time, the desire for quick fixes to reduce childhood illiteracy may be contributing to the development of approaches that are too narrowly focused and do not consider all of the factors that shape a child’s ability to learn to read and write.
Currently, the global education team at FHI 360 is implementing seven educational projects funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) or Hess Corporation that focus on improving reading for children in early grades, in countries as diverse as Kosovo, Ethiopia and Peru. Although these projects differ according to their contexts, they are all rooted in the understanding that systems, schools, environmental and individual factors all play a role in creating a reader. This understanding is reflected in FHI 360’s approach to literacy improvement in primary schools: Literacy 360°. (See figure.)