International Literacy Day activities take place annually on 8 September. It’s a perfect opportunity to spend extra time engaging students and motivating them to elevate their reading and writing skills. This year, its need feels all the more urgent.
Many students have fallen behind in their education due to the pandemic. This is not a short-term problem. Many of today’s toddlers will have had reduced opportunities to form language and reading skills at a key moment in their development. The ramifications will continue for years if we don’t actively work at improving basic skills.
The challenge of poor literacy therefore remains and has perhaps become more of an issue again. In 2019, an estimated 32 million American adults were classified as illiterate. Around 40% of third-grade students do not read at their expected grade level. Across the globe, it is thought that more than 770 million adults cannot read, most of whom are women.
8 International Literacy Day activities for students
International Literacy Day 2022 focuses on “Transforming Literacy Learning Spaces.” As such, many of the activities suggested below will focus on the space (both physical and digital) in which reading and writing take place and how to use these spaces in creative and exciting ways. If you are interested in activities for younger children, check out these resources by Simply Stamps, Read-Write-Think, and Kathy Dotson’s Pinterest page.
International Literacy Day in the Digital Space
It’s very likely that most Literacy Day activities will take place in the digital space, as it offers many tools and resources for student engagement.
1. Writing a reflective journal
Teaching literacy skills in a digital space can be done by replicating some of the approaches undertaken by online book communities.These include using forums, online chat, blogs, and designing multimedia projects where students engage with books and produce discussions, summaries, or reviews.
One option is to ask students to write a reflective journal while reading a book. Their reflections could be captured on a blog or forum in your learning management system (LMS), allowing students to share ideas, thoughts, and comments. You could ask them to reflect on each chapter and what they thought, how the prose was put together, what knowledge they gained, and how well they thought the chapter flowed. At the end of the exercise, ask them to identify three-four key points which reoccur in their reflections for them to discuss.
2. Exploring writing online
The digital space likely is where much reading and writing will occur in the lives of our students. Why not ask them to investigate a specific topic by looking for resources on websites such as Archive.org or Gutenberg.com or News websites? Furthermore, you can ask them to write a short annotated bibliography from what they find. Students can share these links using a blog, forum, or glossary on the LMS.
International Literacy Day in the Classroom
The classroom is the perfect place to celebrate this day with attractive activities, such as:
3. Pass the book
In the classroom, the task is to make the activity fun and engaging, while also encouraging a love of reading and writing. This can be hard to achieve. One idea for the classroom is to ask each student to take a turn to read two pages from a book and then pass it on to the next student in a circle. Continue until everyone has had a go, or the chapter/book is finished. This can be a fun way to encourage reading and can also help improve confidence in public speaking skills at the same time.
Many students are bilingual, but others only speak one language. Why take advantage of International Literacy Day to discuss languages and compare words/sentences to illustrate the differences/similarities? This is an opportunity for bilingual students to engage with their classmates and learn from each other. It also helps to build a better appreciation of different cultures.
International Literacy Day at Home
Students spend most of their time at home. The activities and habits they cultivate in their spare time count just as much as in-class time.
5. Compare the book to the movie
Another suggestion is to compare books with movies. Students are more likely to engage with a movie than a book, but asking them to compare the two allows them to explore the characters, storyline, and use of language in a whole new way.
A “spot the difference” type of activity where students are asked to find differences between the movie adaptation and the book can be a great way to get things started. To make this more manageable, ask them to read just one chapter from the book and compare that to the applicable scene in the movie. What has been changed? What remains the same? Does the imagery in the movie fit with the student's interpretation of the book?
6. Write a letter
Ask students to write an anonymous letter. This might be about what they find hard about writing and reading or what they enjoy the most. Explain that this is not a marked assignment but a fact-finding one for you to help the class improve their reading and writing skills by targeting common challenges and difficulties. Making this task anonymous is essential for students to tell you what they genuinely think.
If you want to make this an easier task, ask them to write a letter to their hero or favorite fictional character. More than anything, this is about honing writing skills and building confidence via a relatively short-length piece of writing.
International Literacy Day Field Trips
A change of scenery is always welcome, and field trips make great memories. You can:
7. Visit a library
Libraries are underused but important spaces for improving literacy skills and sparking excitement. Engaging with a local library is one of the best ways to foster a love of reading and language. So, why not arrange a library tour with a librarian? As a bonus, students can get a library card if they don’t already have one.
8. Talk to a published author
Invite a local novelist, journalist, or blogger to speak with the students about the process of writing and why reading is exciting. This can be a great way for students to learn and become inspired by a role model. If possible, try to find someone relatively young, as students are more likely to see their future selves in someone slightly closer in age.
One way to organize this talk is to combine it with a library visit, linking the author to a dedicated reading space.
What are your favorite International Literacy Day activities?
International Literacy Day 2022 provides an opportunity and an excuse to focus on core skills with our students, but also to try and encourage a sense of fun and appreciation of literature. Above all, make sure that any activity that you put on for this day is full of joy, fun, and excitement. For more activities, ideas, and events, check out the #LiteracyDay hashtag on social media and join in on the fun!