This week, we celebrated World Read Aloud Day at our school, with folks around the world. Before reading to each group, I shared some statistics along with the mission and vision LitWorld has developed to make change happen. The main takeaway, the thought I wanted folks to consider, is that 793 million people in the world are illiterate.
I listened to some very distinct perspectives from my community about the meaning of the day, and that number, and they really struck me, as I have had time to let it all sink in.
7th graders are a hard sell at any time, but especially first thing in the morning. I guess I didn’t really bomb with them. One student wants to read the book I read from. That’s something.
The staff members with whom I shared these statistics were surprised that the number of people in the world who are illiterate isn’t higher, and counted that as a good thing, since the numbers are decreasing. This is true, and surely something to celebrate. I felt somehow, though, that in putting this perspective on it, we were copping out, accepting the inevitable without focusing on the reality of those 793 million Real People. That wasn’t how I expected our conversations to go, though they were good conversations, too.
Fourth graders envisioned a world where everyone could read; it would mean having more books and more signs, and increase understanding; one student shared that reading would build a strong community, and a few suggested that more people would go to college and have jobs. These were all wonderful thoughts, well-expressed.
Then there was one shining moment which caused me to stop. In a crazy day filled with trying to get”photo opps” and snippets and tallies, finding a moment like that wasn’t necessarily easy. That was the moment that the second graders said their piece. We pondered the number of people in the world who do not have the opportunity to learn to read and write. To a second grader, 793 million people is mind-boggling. Its immensity left them silent for a moment. Then they voiced their outrage, their concern.
And finally, one student said it for the rest of them, and to a child, they chimed in a resounding “YES!” which rocked my world, just for a breath-stopping moment. This is what they said: “You know, if our class could, we’d just – fix it.” Then, they gave me lots of very real ways they could help to do just that. Their unshakeable belief that change could truly happen, with everyone making an effort to help, was humbling. Their conviction that they could, indeed, make a difference, was empowering.
The lesson of my first World Read Aloud Day? Sometimes, I need to think more like a second grader.