USAID and LitWorld Celebrate Access and Universal Literacy on World Read Aloud Day

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights set the record in 1999 as the most translated document in the world. Today, it has been translated into 501 languages and dialects from Abkhaz to Zulu, and there is an ongoing effort to translate it into many more.

For one of the most seminal documents in the history of human rights, accessibility is key. Translating has been paramount to granting wide access, but literacy ensures that everyone can read and understand the message of the Declaration for themselves, in any language. Undeniably, language and literacy go hand-in-hand.

Just as language barriers can be extremely limiting, barriers to literacy can feel overwhelming for children and adults alike. Literacy is a slow moving emergency--it is a disaster when it doesn’t happen. And according to the Global Reading Network, 250 million children around the world are not learning foundational reading skills. LitWorld and USAID are working to close the gap because we believe that literacy is not a gift given to just some lucky ones--it is a foundational human right that brings joy, economic independence, gender equity and a pathway out of poverty. Everyone should have it.

It is impossible to advocate for universal literacy, though, without also promoting the many ways people experience literacy--through their own languages. In the same way that words can help us learn about ourselves, the languages within our homes, schools and communities are key to understanding the cultural values of the spaces we occupy. There are over 6,000 spoken languages in the world today, and each one of them represents a powerful medium for literacy, and the transformation that comes with it.

LitWorld’s work has scaled with this commitment to celebrating all languages. We partner with grassroots organizations in 26 countries where mentors from the local community are strengthened through the knowledge of their own language and norms, as well as training and support from the LitWorld programming team. Our LitClubs and LitCamps, which cultivate joyful learning experiences for kids during critical out-of-school time, are conducted in over 10 different languages.

Through the Global Reading Network, an association of NGOs, donor institutions, local communities, and academic institutions, USAID is committed to building national and local capacity for sustainable early grade reading programs. Global Reading Network members also participate in other USAID-supported initiatives (like the Global Book Alliance, Enabling Writers, and the Global Digital Library), in order to help all gain the ability to read to learn.

Through our advocacy, both organizations seek to spread the joy of literacy and language. World Read Aloud Day on February 16, 2017, celebrates the read aloud as a simple act with a huge impact in kids’ lives. It is the perfect symbol for universal literacy as it helps create accessible reading communities. Just a few days later on February 21, 2017, International Mother Language Day celebrates the power of language to cultivate a quality education and  for all. This year’s theme is “Towards Sustainable Futures through Multilingual Education.”

Join LitWorld and USAID as we champion for a high-quality, culturally-responsive education for all children that meets their needs in literacy and language, and ushers them into a bigger, brighter future.


Celebrate WRAD with a "Llama Llama" Read Aloud

World Read Aloud Day celebrates the read aloud as a simple act with a huge impact in kids’ lives. No one understood that more than beloved children's author Anna Dewdney.

As LitWorld's founder Pam Allyn writes on Brightly:

Anna Dewdney, the passionately adored author of so many beautiful books for children, taught us through her example that the power of the read aloud cannot be underestimated. It is profound, powerful, and life changing.

Her last wish was that instead of honoring her with a funeral, people find a child to read aloud to in her memory. Her message resonates so deeply with all of us at LitWorld. This year we dedicate World Read Aloud Day, our signature holiday for the power of reading aloud, to Anna Dewdney. Worldwide, the voices of all who read will sing with the memory of her beautiful last call to action.

Together, let us honor the life of Anna Dewdney. Skype in the Classroom and Penguin are joining together to celebrate her legacy by offering virtual read alouds of Llama Llama Red Pajama to classrooms all over! Guest readers include Molly Idle, Juana Medina, Loren Long, and Anna's daughter, Berol Dewdney.

We encourage you to take part in a #llamallamareadaloud on World Read Aloud Day to remember "Mama Llama," Anna Dewdney.

WRADvocate Shannon Miller on Flipgrid for WRAD!

Shannon Miller, LitWorld WRADvocate

Your Students Can Read, Share and Sing Their Favorite Books From Cantata Learning & Others On Flipgrid For WRAD!

One of my favorite days of the year is World Read Aloud Day! 

I love celebrating WRAD with students, teachers and friends around the world. 

It is such a special day to celebrate literacy and the power of coming together as we read, learn and make connections to others. And it truly sets the tone for this type of collaboration and connecting throughout the year.

In fact, my friend and fellow teacher librarian Andy Plemmons and I have been celebrating for the last several years together even though I am in Iowa and he is in Georgia. 

With World Read Aloud Day right around the corner on February 16, Andy and I are planning lots of meaningful activities for our students to be part of as we celebrate reading and connect with other students around the world. We have the perfect WRAD activity for you to contribute to with your students! 

Every student can share their favorite book on the WRAD Flipgrid! 

With Flipgrid, students share their voice using video. It is amazing how excited and engaged they get when given this platform, especially to know they are connecting with not only their classmates and friends, but others around the world.

When talking to Dr. Charlie Miller, Cofounder of Flipgrid and Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota, about WRAD and using Flipgrid he said,

Our motto at Flipgrid has always been ‘Bring the back row to the front,’ where all students have a respected voice and learn with and from one another. Building this respect of diverse opinions is critical, especially with early readers. Reading can be a daunting task for many, specifically when students are charged with discussing what they have read. 
This is why WRAD is a wonderful opportunity for students around the world to connect, share, and celebrate their unique passions for and progress with reading. Flipgrid is honored to play a small part in this event!

So let's connect our students for WRAD and turn this Flipgrid into a place for them to be heard while celebrating reading and books. 

Your students can get started by clicking here or by entering the code "wrad2017" at

Once the WRAD Flipgrid opens up, you will see this screen with a big green + sign.  Click on that to Add A Response. As responses are added, they will populate these boxes following the + box.

This will be a wonderful activity for students to participate in by sharing their voice for World Read Aloud Day. And for listening to the voices of others as the share their favorite books from the around the world.

Don't forget to look for other classrooms and libraries to connect with for WRAD. 

You can go to this Google Doc that Andy Plemmons and I started to find connections for your school community too.

I have a special tip for all of you when making your WRAD connections: In my post on the Cantata Learning blog, 5 Ways Music Makes Collaboration Fun I shared....

You can use music as a special way to celebrate World Read Aloud Day in the library or in a connection with another library through Skype. Children will love celebrating WRAD by singing, reading and dancing together to any of the Cantata Learning titles.  
One title that brings in the world is Make Everyday Earth Day...Caring For Our Planet.  This is a perfect choice as it will evoke a global conversation with students about how we all have a part in caring for the world. 

It would even be fun to have them pick a book and song to share on the Flipgrid too.  You will find all of the Cantata Learning titles here

Happy World Read Aloud Day Friends...We can't wait to hear from all of you!

World Read Aloud Day Q&A with the LitWorld Team

World Read Aloud Day motivates children, teens, and adults worldwide to celebrate the power of words, and creates a community of readers advocating for every child’s right to a safe education. 

Join Emma, our Communicators Director, and Amber, our U.S. Programs Director, for book recommendations, tips for your own WRAD participation, and more! Become a part of our global reading community at and celebrate with us this February 16, 2017.

Anna Dewdney and the Joy of Reading Aloud

Anna Dewdney. Photo courtesy of Open Book Foundation.

Anna Dewdney. Photo courtesy of Open Book Foundation.

Llama Llama
Red pajama
Reads a story
With his mama.

Sound familiar?

It’s not surprising to me that Anna Dewdney’s beloved and best-selling picture book, Llama Llama Red Pajama, begins with a parent and child reading together. Reading aloud was all important to Anna; her fun-to-read rhyming words leapt off the page and into the mouths of parents and teachers and just about anyone who picked up her books. They were so much fun to say and to share that children wanted to hear them again and again and again.

Anna Dewdney passed away all too early from cancer in 2016, but she would’ve been honored and thrilled that her little llama llama was part of World Read Aloud Day 2017. Anna never took herself overly seriously, but she took writing for children VERY seriously. Her stories were for very young children—listeners and pre-readers—so she believed that the more children enjoyed her books, the more they’d want to read any books. As she wrote in a Wall Street Journal editorial in 2013, “A good book and the joy it provides is often the reason a child is motivated to become a reader in the first place. Language is fun, imagination is fun, and when a child experiences the joy of reading with a childcare provider or a teacher, he or she is encouraged to take that next step and become a reader.”

As Anna’s longtime editor, I witnessed nearly every day Anna’s love of and respect for language. We traded many emails and letters while we worked on her picture book texts, but when we really wanted to see if a line or stanza could work better, we got on the phone and read aloud to each other. While rhyming came more easily to Anna than most people, I know for a fact that she spent hours and hours, days and days, mulling over words to get them right.

Anna read her books aloud to children as much as possible. She had a hard time saying no when bookstores, schools, and libraries asked her to visit, often leaving her studio in the middle of painting a new book to travel to Tennessee or Texas or California. She believed that reading together went deeper than just being together. Again, she said it best in her WSJ editorial, “When we read with a child, we are doing so much more than teaching him to read or instilling in her a love of language. . . by reading with a child, we are teaching that child to be human. When we open a book, and share our voice and imagination with a child, that child learns to see the world through someone else’s eyes . . . learns to feel the world more deeply, becoming more aware of himself and others in a way that he simply cannot experience except in our laps, or in our classrooms, or in our reading circles.”

I wish Anna were here to witness World Read Aloud Day this year, but I know she would be beyond happy and thankful that so many people worldwide were taking part in a cause so close to her heart. Her advice for reading aloud was simple. “Sit down, put a child on your lap, and read a story. Have fun.”

Tracy Gates is the Editorial Director of Picture Books at Viking Children’s Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers.