Reading and Poverty, So What?

Reading and Poverty, So What?

I have talked about the connection between a child’s reading ability and literacy.  If you read my earlier blog posts you will see that my focus was pretty narrow in focusing on an American perspective.  I wrote about the problem by examing that situation only in terms of children in America.  But I have now come to appreciate that we live in a complex world and the lack of reading proficiency in the children of this world also has significant ramifications for children living in some of the world’s poorer countries.  The people in those countries struggle with overcoming substantial, devastating issues of poverty.  Overcoming that poverty is directly connected to improving literacy, which is directly connected to improving reading levels of children and adults in those countries.

light bulb over man's head
Man has new idea

Have You Ever Had Your Mind’s Eye Opened?

I was surfing the Internet in search of a topic for my next blog article when I came across an article about the World Bank’s new initiative addressing a learning poverty target in support of SDGs, or sustainable development goals. After reading this story I suddenly understood that up to now my blogs on this website were decidedly egocentric, or more appropriately, American-centric. By this, I mean that I was focused almost entirely on the teaching and reading problems of children in the United States to the exclusion of children in the rest of the world. I had to ask myself, “reading and poverty, so what?”  While my focus is not going to change, I want us to acknowledge that we live in a connected world society where we share many things in common, including issues of low levels of literacy and reading sufficiency.

The World Bank’s New Initiative

In this initiative, the World Bank’s goal is to lower the global rate of learning poverty by 50% by 2030. Learning poverty is defined as the percentage of ten-year-olds who cannot read and understand a simple story.  This includes 53% of children in low- and middle – income countries and 80% of children in poor countries. These are daunting numbers that all of us should be aware of.  These numbers represent the leading edge of a worldwide learning crisis.   Even with countries addressing this crisis at the fastest rate possible, it will not be diminished before 2030.

children sitting in a classroom
Eager to learn children sitting in classroom

What’s So Important?

Why is this important? It is important because the learning crisis undermines sustainable growth and world poverty reduction. This learning edge crisis is  a major contributor to human capital deficits in the world’s poorer countries. Poor education outcomes affect future positive development in these countries. Studies relied upon by the World Bank, such as the Human Capital Project, clearly establish that education is primary in producing progress in a country’s health, education and survival. These studies emphasize the importance of the percentage of a country’s children who have not achieved minimum reading proficiency or are out of school and presumed to not be able to read.

According to the World Bank’s assessments, all children should be able to read by age 10, acknowledging as I have said in my blog articles, that the ability to read is the gateway for learning. When a child is unable to read, that child’s ability to learn in math, science and other basic areas may be permanently impaired. This leaves that child unable to achieve future life goals for a better future.

children on ground at outside classroom
Children learning in impoverished outdoor classroom

If students in low-income countries learned elementary reading skills, 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty. Ensuring that those who study reading actually learn it could result in a 12% cut in global poverty.  See the UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report.

A quarter of a billion children who attend primary school are struggling to read, says Amapola Alama, program specialist at the International Bureau of Education (IBE-UNESCO). For education to contribute to sustainable development goals, the education systems in poor countries must develop relevant curricula supporting effective teaching practices leading to improved learning. Receiving a quality education in these poorer countries is a crucial factor for children to learn to read well in the early years, just as in the United States.

My Final Thoughts!

There is no doubt in my mind, and I hope every reader of this blog shares this with me, that we should not ignore this crisis because we are not living in a poor country subject to these dismal circumstances. Children around the world share the same learning problems as do American children. We live in an inter-related world and when we talk about teaching reading or dealing with learning disabilities, we are talking about all children in the world. We cannot individually change the world, but we can, and should, support efforts to do so.

I hope that all who read this blog post will join me in supporting the World Bank’s initiative to improve the reading levels of children in the poorer countries by 2030.  We now live in a smaller world than ever before.  We can longer close our ears or shut our eyes to the needs of the poor countries of the world.


One way to help the children of the world is to make a tax-deductible donation to an organization like UNICEF, that is helping to provide the world’s most vulnerable children the nutrition, water and medical supplies they desperately need.

ONE LAST THING. If you have read through this entire post and reached this point, I am going to assume that you have a strong interest in the topic. I would appreciate you leaving me a comment about this article or your experience with this reading impairment, in the comment section below. Thanks.

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4 thoughts on “Reading and Poverty, So What?”

  • The numbers which you have quoted are alarming and if we do not address this issue NOW then we might be heading to a disaster. On one side we see there is so much technological development and on the other side we see people having challenges to read – Shocking disparity!

    I completely support World Bank’s initiative and I strongly believe that if each one of us sees this as ‘their own problem’ then we will not have to wait till 2030 to see results. Let’s do whatever we can from our end to make this world a better place in years to come. Thanks for sharing this post.

    • Satz, thanks for your comment. I like to think that with the increasing opportunities to expand our understanding of the world provided by medias such as the Internet and television, our compassion for others is also expanding. As the mantra goes, think it first, then action will happen.

  • Thanks for sharing this article. I’ve found it to be a very interesting read indeed. I agree with you that we should think globally and help those in third-world countries to get the same chance as everyone else. The world is getting smaller and smaller but we are closer then we have ever been before and therefore, we should help each other as much as we can! Thanks again, for sharing this topic with us. Keep up with excellent work!

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