International Literacy Day

International Literacy Day is celebrated around the world to focus attention on worldwide literacy and to instill a love of reading. I represented the U.S. Embassy today as I spoke to a local Nepali school about literacy. I have done similar outreach this past year using a projector and my iPad, so I created a fun Keynote presentation with talking points about world literacy. I also interviewed some students at school about why they like to read and created the above video. I was praying the power would stay on long enough to be able to use what I had prepared.

As it turns out, my prayers were in vain, since the school didn’t have electricity anywhere accessible as I spoke to 50+ students out in the equivalent of an open-air amphitheater. It felt a little bit like Anna’s classroom in Anna in the King, complete with threatening monsoon rain. So, setting my world-in-my-bag aside, I resorted to another form of technology: a dry erase board and marker.

I re-learned a valuable lesson today. Try as we might to include the latest tools to make our classroom experience engaging, they are simply a means to an end. The end today for me was certainly accomplished as we discussed how literacy lowers infant mortality rates, transforms lives, and contributes to world peace. The means had to be adjusted, but I was still a better teacher because of the effort I had put into it. Things won’t always “work” the way we want them to, but that doesn’t mean the overall objectives still can’t be met.

With more credit to the students than me, I delivered my address, answered a few questions, and handed their principal a wonderful box of fun books that from the U.S. Embassy. I read aloud from Mem Fox’s Whoever You Are and gave out “I Love Reading” pins.

So, if you are not one of 800 million adults and 130 million young people worldwide who can’t read or write, count your blessings – then go and read a good book.