Rewriting Books to Rewrite Lives

Lao schoolgirls reading books. Photo © Blue Plover/Wikimedia Commons
This article originally appeared on the Huffington Post.
For many parents and caregivers, one of the most precious times spent with children is story time. Yet, illiteracy robs 32 million adults in the US the chance to share a bedtime story with their kids or connect with a godchild, grandchild, niece or nephew.
Wanda Steward from Philadelphia was one of these people, but she has spent the last year learning to read and write for the very first time.
She told Project Literacy, a global campaign founded and convened by Pearson and made up of 104 partner organizations that are dedicated to fighting illiteracy, how she struggled to read bedtime stories to her children when they were young.
Instead, using her imagination, she made up her own tales to match the illustrations in the books and created her own character called ‘Pong-Pong the Brave’.
On this International Literacy Day we’re celebrating Wanda’s progress and achievements in literacy by turning her stories into reality.
Featuring a foreword from renowned actor and activist Idris Elba, ‘The Little Chicken Named Pong-Pong’ is Wanda’s own original interpretation of the classic fable ‘Chicken Little’, created with the pictures as her inspiration.

The moral of the traditional Chicken Little story is to have courage, even when it feels like the sky is falling. The decision, as any adult, to learn to read and write is a courageous one. By re-writing this famous tale, Wanda is bringing to life just one of the challenges illiterate parents face – not being able to read their children a bedtime story.
Literacy is fundamental to learning. Without it, you cannot access education, you’re likely to be in low paid work – or have no job at all – and you’re much more likely to live in poverty.
Almost one billion adults worldwide struggle to do every day activities, such as read a medicine label, follow a recipe or apply for a book – that many of us take for granted.
Illiteracy is passed down from generation to generation, as children whose parents have low literacy levels have a 72% chance of being at the lowest reading levels themselves. Globally, funding for literacy programs is skewed more heavily towards children in primary and secondary school, rather than youth or adult literacy, yet we know that there’s no way for us to break the cycle of intergenerational illiteracy if we don’t focus on parents. We need to tackle illiteracy at all levels if we’re to close the global literacy gap in the next decade.
Join us in helping to re-write the lives of those living with illiteracy by reading and sharing Wanda’s story so that by 2030 no child is born at risk of becoming illiterate.

Pearson is a member company of the Global Business Coalition for Education. Through it’s Project Literacy campaign, it has been building partnerships across the world to improve literacy for people in need.