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Looking Ahead: A Message from the Section Officers

IFLA 2000 - Jerusalem, Section on Reading Meetings and Programme

Programme Meeting in Jerusalem: Literacy and Libraries - An Introduction

Workshop in Jerusalem: Library-Based Programming to Promote Literacy

The Section on Reading's Objectives

About the Section on Reading Brochure

Literacy, Libraries & IFLA: Recent Developments and a Look at the Future (Paper for IFLA 2000 - Jerusalem, Section on Reading Programme

Section on Reading Action Plan 2000-2001

United Nations Considering the Declaration of a United Nations Literacy Decade

Papers from 1998 IFLA Workshop Available

OECD Report on "Literacy in the Information Age" Available

About the Recent UNESCO Brochure

Major International Studies of Literacy in the 1990s

E-mail Addresses for Standing Committee Members and Project Participants

Section on Reading on IFLANET

IFLA Section on Reading Contact Information

Newsletter of the Section on Reading

No. 10 - July 2000

Looking Ahead: A Message from the Section Officers

IFLA established its Section on Reading in 1995, incorporating its Round Table on Research in Reading and its Round Table on Children's Literature Documentation Centres. In 1995, the Executive Committees of both ex-Round Tables expressed satisfaction with the new arrangement and their hope that the new Section would have "close links with the actual planning of the Working Group on the eventual future Core Programme on Literacy."

As outlined elsewhere in this issue, IFLA decided not to form a Core Programme on Literacy but the Working Group continued to meet and develop its recommendations. Last summer in Bangkok, the IFLA Professional Board turned the final report of the Literacy Working Group over to the Section on Reading for whatever action we deemed appropriate. Our first steps, a programme and a workshop at the 2000 conference in Jerusalem, are outlined in this Newsletter issue, along with our Section's objectives, projects, and publications. In order to be more effective, the Section on Reading needs more members. Our information brochure outlines four good reasons for joining the IFLA Section on Reading. They are: 1) to support advocacy of an activity -reading- that is at the heart of library service; 2) to keep informed about topics such as literacy; the role of reading in the electronic age; current research in reading and literacy; and the activities and projects of organizations active in reading and literacy promotion; 3) to share common interests with a world-wide network of library and reading professionals; and 4) to participate in projects that highlight the importance of libraries and the written word to knowledge-based democracy.

Please consider joining us in our important work of promoting reading and research about reading and literacy in this digital age. See our brochure for details and a membership form.

You may also contact either of us or IFLA Headquarters at:

c/o Kelly Moore

Membership Manager,
P.O. Box 95312,
2509 CH, The Hague,
Fax: +31-70-3834827,
E-mail: kelly.moore@ifla.org

John Y. Cole, Chair
Adele M. Fasick, Secretary-Treasurer

IFLA 2000 - Jerusalem, Section on Reading Meetings and Programme

Standing Committee Meeting I
Saturday 12 August
11:30 - 14:20


Approval of Agenda
Minutes of Standing Committee Meetings in Bangkok (see elsewhere in Newsletter No. 9)
Report from Chair
Report from Secretary-Treasurer
Reports from Committee Members
Guidelines for Literacy Programmes
Action Plan for 2000-2001
Programme and Workshop in Jerusalem
Plans for Boston Conference in 2001
Plans for Glasgow Conference in 2002

Programme Meeting

Wednesday 16 August
08:30 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.
"Literacy and Libraries: An Introduction"
(See details re. Programme Meeting below)


Thursday 17 August
08:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.
"Library-Based Programming to Promote Literacy"

Standing Committee Meeting II

Friday 18 August,

Programme Meeting in Jerusalem: Literacy and Libraries - An Introduction

The Section on Reading is sponsoring both a programme and a workshop in Jerusalem to help acquaint librarians with issues and activities concerning literacy and libraries. The programme Literacy and Libraries: An Introduction takes place on Wednesday 16 August at 08:30 a.m. The speakers are John Y. Cole, chair of the Section on Reading, speaking on "Literacy, Libraries & IFLA: Recent Developments and a Look at the Future," and Section member Shirley Fitzgibbons, who will present a preliminary survey of major international studies of literacy that have been published since 1990. The discussion will include comments from several Section members and individuals who worked on the Final Report of the Literacy Working Group that was submitted to the IFLA Professional Board in Bangkok. Mr. Cole's paper and an excerpt from Ms. Fitzgibbon's are presented elsewhere in this newsletter.

Workshop in Jerusalem: Library-Based Programming to Promote Literacy

The presentations and discussion at this workshop focus on practical experiences among libraries in promoting literacy. The workshop will held on Thursday 17 August and begin at 08:30 a.m. The speakers and their topics are:

Gertrude Kayaga Mulindwa former director, Botswana National Library Service, and Marty Legwaila "Literacy Programme in Library: A Case Study from Botswana"

Muzhgan Nazarova IRC Director, Public Affairs Section American Embassy, Baku, Azerbaijan "Library-Based Programs to Promote Literacy: Do They Exist in Azerbaijan?" Barbara Immroth professor, University of Texas-Austin, USA "The 'Born to Read' Bilingual Program at the San Antonio Public Library"


Kathy East, Wood County District Public Library, Ohio, USA "A Public Library Enhances Services Through Family Literacy."

The Section on Reading's Objectives

  • To provide leadership, advice, and information regarding international campaigns that support reading development;
  • To monitor and promote research about reading, literacy, readers, and library users;
  • To encourage a better understanding of reading patterns and literacy problems through discussion, publications, and conferences
  • To raise awareness of the importance of reading in children's development and sharing information about research and reading promotion activities regarding young people

About the Section on Reading Brochure

The Section on Reading's information brochure will be available at the IFLA Headquarters booth at the Jerusalem conference. Multiple copies have been sent to members of the Standing Committee. The brochure describes the Section's objects, its recent and future activities and projects, and its publications. It also includes membership information. Additional copies are available from the Center for the Book, Library of Congress, 101 Independence Ave., SE., Washington, D.C. 20540-4920, USA.

Literacy, Libraries & IFLA: Recent Developments and a Look at the Future (Paper for IFLA 2000 - Jerusalem, Section on Reading Programme

John Y. Cole, Director, Center for the Book, Library of Congress USA, and Chair, IFLA Section on Reading

(Note: The following paper will be presented at the Section on Reading, Programme Meeting,, IFLA 2000 in Jerusalem)

Abstract: In the past decade educators and librarians have become increasingly concerned about literacy-both the problem of illiteracy and the need to improve and promote literacy among those who already can read. In 1996, IFLA established a Literacy Working Group to recommend what actions IFLA should take regarding literacy and its promotion through libraries. The Working Group's report and recommendations were presented in 1999 and turned over to the IFLA Section on Reading for consideration as part of its action plan. This paper traces IFLA's previous involvement with the issue of literacy, summarizes portions of the IFLA Literacy Working Group's 1999 report, and presents the Section on Reading's immediate plans for promoting literacy and literacy programs in libraries.


IFLA has been interested in the issue of literacy, at least intermittently, for about a decade. However we haven't known quite what to do with it. There are several reasons for this uncertainty. One is a nagging belief on the part of many librarians that literacy is not, at heart, an important issue for libraries. I think the opposite: that it is not only an important issue but, when coupled with reading promotion, in many ways it is at the heart of librarianship. In retrospect it seems to me that the other problem-- and in some ways the reverse side of the coin-has been the earnest desire on the part of some literacy advocates for IFLA to jump right in and perhaps try to do too much too soon. As an organization, IFLA has backed away from this approach.

At the 1999 IFLA conference in Bangkok, IFLA's three-year-old Literary Working Group submitted its final report and recommendations to the IFLA Professional Board. The board turned the report over to the Section on Reading for incorporation, as we saw fit, into our Action Plan for 2000-2001. The Working Group was disbanded. Today I want to address the Section on Reading's plans for keeping the literacy issue alive within IFLA and for moving ahead with specific (if limited) programs and projects. First, however, I want to provide you with some historical background and context for the Section's approach to the topic.

IFLA and Literacy

Several forces converged between 1989 and 1995 to put literacy on IFLA's agenda. In 1989, IFLA sponsored a pre-conference in Paris on the topic of public libraries and the illiteracy problem. The next year the IFLA Public Library Section participated in a pre-conference in Sweden on literacy and the role of the public library.

To focus world attention on the problem of illiteracy, the United Nations declared 1990 as International Literacy Year and UNESCO was designated as the lead agency. The two principal messages International Literacy Year presented to the public were: 1) education and literacy were essential to the well-being of society; and 2) literacy and education were the responsibility of all sectors of society, not only schools and professional education. In 1990 the United Nations, UNESCO, the World Bank, and other international organizations sponsored the Education for All conference in Bangkok. The background papers on education and literacy did not include anything about libraries or the potential role that they might play in the campaign to eradicate illiteracy. IFLA and the American Library Association decided to send Lucille C. Thomas, an American school library leader, to the conference to represent libraries and their interests. Her report on how libraries could be "partners in meeting basic education needs" was submitted to IFLA and distributed at the 1991 conference in Moscow.

Literacy was the topic of an IFLA pre-conference seminar held in India in 1992 prior to the 58th general conference in New Delhi. Lucille Thomas presented a paper that was published in the IFLA Journal in 1993 under the title "World Literacy and the Role of Libraries." She provided an overview of developments around the world since 1990, focusing on the question "What Can Libraries and Librarians Do in the Literacy Effort?" In general, her answers--all valid today--focused on developing and interpreting collections, especially for new adult readers; cooperating and collaborating with literacy and literacy-related organizations; helping educate the public about literacy problems; creating and supporting family literacy programs for preschool children, and encouraging school libraries to reinforce basic literacy instruction by bringing children and books together.

Also in 1993 UNESCO published "Guidelines for Public Libraries Promoting Literacy," which was prepared by Barbro Thomas, a Swedish librarian, under contract for IFLA. She drew on the proceedings of the 1989 and 1990 pre-conference seminars, particularly the one in Sweden, which she had helped plan. Many of her recommendations coincided with those made by Lucille Thomas, especially the need to work in concert with other organizations at the national, regional, and local levels. In her report Barbro Thomas also advocated greater cooperation at the international level.

At the IFLA conference in Havana in 1994, Sissel Nilsen and Francis Kaiser proposed the creation of a new IFLA core program for literacy and reading promotion. Their plan was based on a previous proposal made by the Standing Committee on Libraries Serving Disadvantaged Persons. The new core program's aim would be to "promote the advancement of literacy in the world and promote reading skills through libraries, including support for literacy among young people and people with disabilities, thus ensuring everyone's right to know and helping to secure democracy throughout the world." The proposal was broadened to include the promotion and implementation of the UNESCO Public Library Manifesto and endorsed by the Professional Board. However, at a joint meeting of the IFLA Executive Board and Professional Board in 1995, the recommendation for the new core program was rejected on financial and organizational grounds. Instead it was decided to create a Literacy Working Group that would study the feasibility of a major IFLA initiative in support of literacy programs in libraries.

Also in 1995, the Professional Board agreed to establish a new Section on Reading, combining the Round Table on Research in Reading and the Round Table on Children's Literature Documentation Centres. Seven goals for the new Section are outlined in the final 1995 issue of the IFLA Journal. (21, 1995, 4, p. 317). Although these goals emphasize reading promotion, research about reading, and work with children, three of these goals???interestingly enough???also concern literacy. Maybe someone had an eye on the future!

The Literacy Working Group held its organizational meeting at the IFLA conference in Beijing in 1996. It was charged by the Professional Board (PB Doc 95-111) to propose a policy and specific course of action by IFLA, over the long run, to support the promotion of literacy and the development of reading skills through libraries, including support for literacy among young people and people with disabilities and to support the "right to know." Several members of the Working Group met at The Hague in March 1997, and the group was reorganized. Irene Sever volunteered to be chair and Martin Kesselman volunteered to be secretary. It was agreed to undertake an international survey "to determine the current state of affairs of libraries and literacy and to have some baseline data on where we are today." The questionnaire was reviewed at the conference in Copenhagen in 1997, and in March 1998 the Professional Board approved additional funding to support the distribution and subsequent analysis of the questionnaire. At the 1998 Amsterdam conference the goal of the survey was changed: it was to become "a worldwide snapshot of the role libraries and library associations play with literacy programs rather than a country by country analysis." A progress report/financial report was made to the Professional Board in October 1998, and a market research consultant was contracted to help with the analysis of the survey results. This is the report that was presented to the Professional Board last summer in Bangkok. It was prepared by Working Group secretary Martin Kesselman, and consultant Dennis Blyth on behalf of the Working Group.

Based on its discussions, its review of IFLA activities and documents and the survey results, the Working Group made six major recommendations in its final report: 1) IFLA must advocate the major role libraries play in the promotion of literacy; 2) IFLA needs to continue to develop guidelines for libraries in promoting literacy activities; 3) IFLA should serve as a clearinghouse for literacy programs in libraries; 4) IFLA should provide leadership in the development and provision of continuing education and training manuals for libraries and, where needed, translations of these into various languages; 5) IFLA should serve as a major communications channel for literacy programs in libraries; and 6) IFLA should have a major role in focusing research on libraries and literacy.

In order for IFLA to begin carrying out these recommendations, the Working Group recommended "that IFLA request funding by UNESCO for a full-time Literacy Officer for Libraries for a trial period of two to three years." The officer would work closely with several IFLA Standing Committees and other organizations, developing grants and project proposals. After a period of two years, "this position should be evaluated and at that time the need for a permanent Literacy Officer, the establishment of a new core program or the designation of literacy activities within another core program should be re-examined." [ For the text of the Working Group Report, visit the Section on Reading on IFLANET at www.ifla.org]

Literacy and Libraries

I now would like to step back and look at specific ways that libraries might become involved in literacy. First, it is useful to expand on the distinction between illiteracy, which is the inability to read, and what Librarian of Congress Daniel J. Boorstin in 1980 labeled as "aliteracy." An "aliterate" is a person who knows how to read but for various reasons, does not. Closely connected is the person who knows how to read but whose abilities are limited. Such persons, at least in the United States, often are labeled "functional illiterates." The solution to illiteracy, an education problem, is teaching someone how to read. The remedy for "aliteracy" is motivational: reacquainting, or in some cases "reconvincing" people about the power and satisfactions of reading. For "functional illiterates" the answer often involves both education and motivation.

UNESCO defines a literate person as someone who can with understanding both read and write a short simple sentence about his or her everyday life. However, as the IFLA Working Group's report points out, it is difficult to come up with a single definition for functional literacy, which can differ among countries, cultures, and time frames. My real point is that libraries can help in each instance and no matter which definition one uses. Libraries are, above all, community education resources and places. Through their collections and services they can stimulate literacy, help instruct, and motivate interest in books, reading, and lifetime learning.

The Working Group report outlines three areas in which libraries can assist literacy activities: providing collections in support of literacy, actively participating in instructional programs for learners, and providing support services for literacy efforts by the library and other organizations. Regarding IFLA's potential role, the report is a little ambiguous. It acknowledges that the traditional route would be for IFLA to work through library associations, performing, I assume, mostly an educational function. Yet the report also notes the effectiveness of many grassroots literacy programs and, I think, implies that direct connections between IFLA and such programs should be considered.

It is this latter route, working directly with literacy organizations instead of library associations, that I think we should emphasize. This approach takes into account and might even bring together two recent trends. The first is the broadening of the role of libraries into community information centers, whether that community be a school, rural district, town or city, college or university, government agency, or an institution with a specialized clientele. The second trend is the expansion of the definition of literacy to include not only functional literacy, but also family literacy, information literacy, and even computer literacy. Moreover, library and information services are being expanded to include literacy in its expanded forms. In every case, whether information is available in a book, newspaper, or on a screen, the ability to read is a basic survival skill. As the American Library Association's 1999 pamphlet on 21st Century Literacy [Available without charge from the American Library Association or the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress] points out, new technologies are increasing, not decreasing, the importance of the ability to read. The new literacy encompasses what libraries do best: enable everyone, without cost, to obtain, interpret, and use information from print sources, computers, and other media.

Immediate Plans of the IFLA Section on Reading

I think it was logical for the Professional Board to turn the report of the Literacy Working Group over to the Section on Reading for review and incorporation, as best we can, into our program and action plan. The advantage is that for several years literacy has been specified as one of the Section on Reading's interests. Moreover there are close personal and organizational links between the Literacy Working Group and the Section on Reading. Valeria Stelmakh, the past Section chair and Irene Sever, a longtime member, both played important roles in the Literacy Working Group. A bibliography about literacy by Irene Sever has been one of the Section's long-standing projects.

The disadvantage, at least for those who wish that IFLA would move faster and in a bolder fashion, is that literacy is only one of the Section on Reading's several areas of interest. The others are reading promotion and development, promoting research, educating others about the broad field of reading and reading research, and a special concern about the role of reading in the lives of children and young people. These topics are not unrelated to literacy, but each has its own set of interests and, if you will, its own constituency.

Nevertheless the Section on Reading hopes to increase IFLA's interest in literacy and its importance . By necessity our efforts will be limited and focused on specific projects. We hope and trust, however, that the momentum will build and we think there is a good chance of this happening. But first we need the help of others in IFLA who share our belief-and the belief of the IFLA Literacy Working Group-that libraries have a major role to play in the worldwide reduction of illiteracy and in the promoting of literacy.

The Section on Reading began including literacy as part of its IFLA programming in 1998. At the Amsterdam conference that year and again in Bangkok last year, the Section sponsored open sessions about reading promotion activities in the Netherlands and Southeast Asia, respectively, and both of these sessions included information about literacy as well as reading promotion projects. In Amsterdam we hosted a very successful all-day workshop on the topic "Literacy and Reading Services to Cultural and Linguistic Minorities." It featured six presentations that combined research findings and descriptions of successful projects, a panel discussion among experts who work with minority language groups, and poster presentations describing literacy and reading projects from around the world. A booklet containing the papers is still available.

The Section on Reading also has expanded its Newsletter to include more news about both reading promotion and literacy projects. A new column, "Current Research in Literacy and Reading," contains selected abstracts and descriptions of current research in the fields of reading and literacy. This column as well as the entire newsletter and other Section news can be found on IFLANET, the official IFLA Web site.

In Jerusalem, in addition to this program, we are sponsoring a workshop on "Library-Based Programs to Promote Literacy." The goal is to bring together librarians and other experts from several countries and regions to explore library-based programs for promoting literacy. We are interested in programs for both children and adults, as well as the factors which make for a successful program, the sustainability of program, the training of staff, providing materials for new literates, and of course obtaining funding for literacy programs. Our objective is to develop and distribute guidelines for libraries to use in promoting literacy activities. Such guidelines, as pointed out in the Literacy Working Group's report, must be cooperative efforts involving several IFLA groups.

This leads me to a final point. The Section on Reading cannot perform this task alone. Partners are needed within IFLA, particularly from various Standing Committees, Sections, Round Tables, and , when appropriate, Core Programmes. A valuable appendix in the Working Group's report lists the various literacy and literacy-related activities of IFLA's various Standing Committee and Round Tables during the past decade. It includes the expert meetings, seminars, workshops, projects, and publications. IFLA, this record shows, already is deeply involved with literacy as a topic and issue. Our problem, as I mentioned earlier, is the lack of a focal point. The Section on Reading cannot by itself be that focal point, but we can help through specific programs and projects and through trying to raise IFLA's awareness of the importance of the issue. More time is needed, but so is more help. As Section chair, I welcome participation in the programs we have planned and ideas from other IFLA unit heads about how we can work together. I also point out that on the literacy issue, IFLA also needs outside partners, including UNESCO, the World Bank, and other organizations concerned with literacy and education.

I will end, appropriately enough, by quoting to you the concluding words of the Literacy Working Group's report: "Literacy is an issue that touches all parts of our lives and is of concern to all libraries worldwide. Reading and its promotion as well as information seeking skills are and will continue to be critical skills for lifelong learning. A major thrust for literacy programs by IFLA and by libraries, with assistance and leadership from IFLA, can be a major catalyst for global change and have a positive impact on many levels-(including) education, health, and social and economic vitality."

Literacy, Libraries & IFLA Bibliography

IFLA, "Final Report: Working Group on Literacy." Typescript, 20 pages. 1999.

"Core Programme on Literacy, " IFLA Journal 21 (1995), no. 3, p. 227.

"Final Report of the Working Group on Literacy," IFLA Journal, 25 (1999). No. 5-6, p. 310.

"New IFLA Section on Reading," IFLA Journal 21 (1995), no. 4, pp. 317-18.

"Report of the Professional Board, 1997-1999," by the Chair, Sissel Nilsen, IFLA Journal 25 (1999), no. 5/6, p. 298.

Thomas, Barbro, Guidelines for Public Libraries Promoting Literacy. UNESCO, 1993.

Thomas, Lucille, "World Literacy and the Role of Libraries," IFLA Journal 19 (1993), no. 2, pp. 162-69.

Section on Reading Action Plan 2000-2001

Goal 1. To assume a leadership role in outlining strategies for international campaigns that support reading development.

1.1 To work with national and international reading associations in organizing joint conferences and seminars on related issues, publishing relevant papers, conducting research, and promoting reading in different countries. Closer cooperation is planned with the International Reading Association's International Development in Europe Committee and with the International Book Committee, a UNESCO advisory body.

1.2 To work, through IFLANET and with links to other Websites, to serve as a clearinghouse for information about literacy promotion and research projects and their organizational sponsors.

Goal 2. To monitor and promote the dissemination of knowledge and research about reading, literacy, readers, and library patrons.

2.1 To publish the English and French versions of the proceedings of the June 1998 international conference, "Libraries, Reading, and Publishing in the Cold War," held in cooperation with the IFLA Round Table on Library History. Publication of individual papers is planned in the journal Libraries & Culture, and an English-language monograph is being planned for 2001.

2.2 To continue and to expand a feature in the Section on Reading Newsletter that provides abstracts of recent research about reading and literacy.

Goal 3. To promote among librarians, educators, and other cultural agents a better understanding of reading promotion, reading patterns, and literacy problems.

3.1 To organize at each annual IFLA conference, including the Jerusalem conference in 2000, an open session that discusses aspects of reading and literacy issues affecting individuals of all ages.

3.2 To participate, with the IFLA Library History Round Table and the IFLA National Library Section, in "National Libraries: Interpreting the Past, Shaping the Future," a conference on 23-26 October, 2000, at the Library of Congress.

Goal 4. To explore various ways of promoting reading and literacy in specific cultural milieus.

4.1 To sponsor a workshop in Jerusalem in 2000 on "Library-Based Programs to Promote Literacy,"and possibly a follow-up workshop in Boston in 2001.

4.2 To develop and publicize guidelines for literacy programs in libraries.

4.3 To provide publicity and support for the Soros Foundation/Open Society's Pushkin Library Project and related initiatives.

Goal 5. To emphasize the role of reading in children's development and to outline various approaches and methods that have been used to promote reading to children in different countries.

5.1 To continue to co-sponsor the IFLA-UNESCO "Books for All" library development project.

5.2 To provide advice and publicity for the UNESCO-coordinated "Reading for All" international reading and library promotion project.

Goal 6. To promote membership in the Section on Reading in order to increase its effectiveness.

6.1 To cooperate with other IFLA units that have similar interests.

6.2 To translate the informational brochure about the Section on Reading into all of IFLA's official languages.

United Nations Considering the Declaration of a United Nations Literacy Decade

The fifty-sixth session of the United Nations General Assembly, in response to a resolution put forth by 17 member nations, will consider a proposal and plan for the declaration of this decade as the United Nations Literacy Decade. A preliminary draft plan ("Literacy Decade Framework and Elements for a Plan of Action,") was prepared by a group of specialists convened by UNESCO's Basic Education Division in Sevres, France, on 27-29 March 2000. The draft was discussed and found support at a strategy session ("Literacy For All: A Renewed Vision for a Ten-Year Global Action Plan,") at the World Education Forum in Dakar on 27 April 2000. The session, which attracted about 100 people from all regions and many diverse sectors and institutions, stressed the conditions needed to launch "a major world-wide initiative" that will focus on "universal literacy as an integral component of basic education" and will be framed within "the Education for All movement and goals."

The new "Literacy for All" framework effort emphasizes: 1) a comprehensive and renewed understanding of literacy that includes children, youth, and adults, in and out of school; 2) a renewed vision and a renewed commitment from all: national governments, national and local societies; and international agencies; in the family, the community, the workplace, the school system, and the media; and 3) renewed strategies and mechanisms at all levels, "consistent with such renewed vision and with the magnitude and complexity of the challenge."

Examples of the "renewed vision" include the following: 1) moving from the old goal of "eradicating illiteracy" to a new goal of "creating literate environments and literate societies;" 2) combining, instead of separating, literacy for children and literacy for adults; 3) emphasizing ways that literacy education takes place outside of the school system, as well as within schools; 4) understanding literacy as a lifelong learning process, not simply a development associated with a particular period in the life of a person; and 5) viewing literacy as a responsibility of both the government and civil society, and not the government only. According to the discussion summary distributed after the meeting, participants at the World Education Forum in Dakar supported the idea of a United Nations Literacy Decade for several reasons, including: 1) "Literacy is an ethical, formative, cultural, civic and economic necessity;" 2) "Literacy has become a major national and global priority for both developing and industrialized countries;" 3) "Child and school-based literacy-as revealed by a number of national, regional, and international assessments conducted in the 90s-is an area of poor performance in school systems worldwide, and a major source of school repetition and early drop-out;" 4) "Literacy is evolving in its concept and applications;" 5) "The gap between literate and illiterates in terms of social, civic and economic opportunities will likely increase unless major new efforts are undertaken;" and 6) "A decade is a reasonable time frame to be able to show major gains worldwide."

Papers from 1998 IFLA Workshop Available

The Section on Reading has distributed Literacy and Reading Services to Cultural and Linguistic Minorities, a 55-page booklet containing papers presented at its 1998 IFLA workshop in Amsterdam. The papers and their authors are: "Building a Literate Environment: Using Oral-Based Reading Materials to Facilitate Literacy," by Rebecca Knuth; "Expanding the Literacy of Linguistic Minorities: Coping Skills and Successful Transition Across Discourse Communities," by Clara M. Chu; "In Librarianship Professionalism is the Condition for Success," by Silva Novljan; "From Oral Tradition to Written Culture," by Carlos Aleman Ocampo; "Producing and Promoting Children's Books in a Minority Language: the Welsh Experience, 1950-1998," by Gwilym Huws; "Electronic Publishing and Minority Languages: the Contribution to Literacy," by Geraint Evans and Jane Del-Pizzo; "Literacy in Two Languages: Best of Both Worlds," by Maureen White and Judith Marquez; and "Literacy: A Library and the Community Programs at Gosford City Library, NSW, Australia," by Heather Fisher. Copies of the booklet are available on request from the Center for the Book, Library of Congress, 101 Independence Ave., SE, Washington, DC 20540-4920, telephone (202) 707-5221, fax (202) 707-0269. e-mail: cfbook@loc.gov.

OECD Report on "Literacy in the Information Age" Available

The third and final report of International Adult Literacy Survey, a joint project of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Ministry of Industry, Canada, has been published. The 220-page survey, titled "Literacy in the Information Age," presents data about literacy and literacy problems in OECD's 20 member countries. Statistics Canada, Canada's central statistical agency, managed the design and implementation of the International Adult Literacy Survey in cooperation with the Educational Testing Service of Princeton, N.J. and national survey teams. (For background and additional information about the OECD International Adult Literacy Survey, including this final study, see Shirley Fitzgibbon's article below)

What follows is a brief description, provided by the report's authors. "Findings point to large differences in the average level and population distribution of literacy skills both within and between countries. Low literacy skills are evident among all adult groups in significant -albeit varying-proportions. Literacy proficiency varies considerably according to home background factors and educational attainment in most of the countries surveyed. However, the relationship between literacy skills and educational attainment is complex. Many adults have managed to attain high levels of literacy proficiency despite a low level of education; conversely, some have low literacy skills despite a high level of education. These differences matter both economically and socially: literacy affects, inter alia, labor quality and flexibility, employment, training opportunities, income from work and wide participation in civic society. Improving the literacy skills of the population remains a large challenge for policy makers. The results suggest that high-quality foundation learning in schools is important but insufficient as a sole means to that end. Policies directed at he workplace and family settings are also needed. The employers' role in promoting and rewarding literacy skills is particularly important for skills development.

For information on the availability of the report, visit the OECD Web site at http://www.oecd.org/ .

About the Recent UNESCO Brochure

To obtain a copy of the recent UNESCO brochure, Towards a new understanding of literacy, contact: UNESCO Literacy and Non-formal Education Section, 7, Place de Fontenoy Paris, France tel. +33 1 45 68 10 09 / fax: +33 1 45 68 56 27 e-mail: literacy@unesco.org ,http://www.unesco.org

Major International Studies of Literacy in the 1990s

Shirley Fitzgibbons, School of Library and Information Science, Indiana University

(Note: the following summary of major international studies of literacy is part of a current paper and bibliography which will be presented at the IFLA Congress in Jerusalem in Summer 2000)

A U.S. study completed in 1992, the National Adult Literacy Survey (NALS), developed new measurements of literacy including three scales, one for each of the following aspects of literacy: prose, document and quantitative. Each scale has a 500 point basis and allows five major breakdowns of levels of literacy (Adult Literacy in America, 1993).These three types and levels of literacy were used as the basis for a series of international literacy surveys which will be described below. A Canadian study of adult literacy by Statistics Canada in 1989 was the first study to assess literacy in a valid and reliable way across language and culture (English and French).

Internationally, a series of studies of adult literacy in countries of the Organisation for Economic Co?operation and Development (OECD) were conducted between 1994 and 1999. The first International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS) was published by the OECD and Statistics Canada (Literacy, Economy and Society, 1995). The survey included interviews and tests of representative samples of adults aged 16 to 65 in the following countries: Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States. For the first time, the literacy and numeracy of adults in different countries can be profiled and compared. The survey provided pertinent information on the economic performance and strength of each country, and the information needed to improve literacy. The survey used large samples of adults (ranging from 1500 to 8000 per country) in Europe and North America during 1994 in a uniform test of their literacy skills using the same methodology and scales of the U.S. Adult Literacy Survey.

Building on these two major studies of the U.S. and Canada, the Educational Testing Service on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education and Statistics Canada joined with the OECD, the UNESCO Institute for Education in Hamburg, and the Commission of the European Communities to encourage national governments to participate in the study. The Canadian results were published also separately in Reading the Future: A Portrait of Literacy in Canada (1996). Warren Clark has issued a report comparing three of the countries: Canada, the United States, and Germany (Clark, web report).

The first IALS study included data from the seven countries listed above. A second study included data collected from the following countries: Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Ireland and Flemish Belgium and the report presents comparative data from all twelve countries. (Literacy Skills for the Knowledge Society, 1997). A third study included an additional eight countries: Chile, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Norway, Portugal, and Slovenia (Literacy in the Information Age, June 2000). There are now 20 countries in this international database with comparative data on literacy levels. According to a press release on the World Wide Web regarding the final report (report newly released), the following conclusions were noted:

    The higher a nation's literacy skills, the more likely its population will work in better quality jobs, earn more and have healthier habits and lifestyles. There is a measurable, net return to literacy skills.

    Literacy proficiency has a substantial impact on earnings when other aspects of human capital, specifically educational attainment and experience, are taken into account.

    The higher a nation's literacy skills, the higher the output measured in gross domestic product per capita. For example, Canada ranked among the top countries on both gross domestic product per capita and prose literacy.

    No nation did so well in literacy attainment that it could be said to have no literacy problems. (Statistics Canada Web site: http://www.statcan.ca/Daily/English/000613b.htm )

Additional information on countries can be found in the UNESCO work on illiteracy gleaned from national reports done for Education for All Year 2000 (EFA), which provides data on 167 country reports. The UNESCO Institute for Statistics prepared the report based on these country and regional reports enhanced by the Institute's global estimates and trends (Education for All 2000 Assessment, 2000). Two groups of ages have been used in the study: young adults (aged 15?24 years of age) and adults (aged 15 years and over). Because countries collected data in different ways (household surveys, school surveys, population censuses), resulting in differences in samples and frequency/recency of data collection, the report suggests caution in interpreting reported literacy rates, especially the very high literacy rates. Some of the findings and projections include the following:
    Four out of every five adults (aged 15 years and over) in the world are literate.

    Literacy rates have risen over the past thirty years, to approximately 79 percent in 1998.

    There were still some 880 million illiterate adults in the world in 1998 and:

    • two thirds of them are women
    • more than 98 percent live in less developed regions
    • this includes one in seven young adults
    The adult literacy rate is the lowest in sub?Saharan Africa and South and West Asia (median rates of 57and 58 percent respectively) Latin America, the Caribbean, the Arab States and North Africa have intermediate rates of 88 percent and 80 percent

    The highest adult literacy rates are in East Asia and the Pacific (94 percent), and in Central Asia and Central and Eastern Europe (98 percent)

The report also points out the considerable inter?country disparities within each region. Significantly, for the majority of reporting countries, substantial progress was made in raising adult literacy rates over the decade, for example, a reported 21 percentage points in Bangladesh. Yet in some regions adult literacy rates dropped as in Honduras (from 27 percent in 1990 to 21 percent in 1998). Gender disparities in literacy only improved slightly over the decade though where the literacy rates are the highest, disparities are the lowest.

Gender disparities remain high in South and West Asia, in the Arab States and North Africa, and in sub?Saharan Africa. It is important to point out that the statistical report not only included findings on young adult and adult literacy levels (and gender disparities) but also examined several core indicators that assess education overall but which are obviously related to literacy over the long?term such as enrollment in early childhood programs, educational levels completed plus expenditures and trained personnel related to the educational systems. This assessment effort is a follow?up on the UNESCO 1990 World Conference on Education held in Thailand in 1990, entitled Education for All (EFA) which set a global agenda for education and literacy with several goals including the reduction of adult illiteracy. This global agenda was part of the World Declaration on Education for All adopted at the Conference which was also part of the International Literacy Year of 1990.

It is apparent that there is more comparable data on literacy globally than at any other time, and this is a basis on which to plan global literacy efforts.

Major International Studies in Literacy References

Adult Literacy in America: A First Look at the Results of the National Adult Literacy Survey. Washington, D.C.:U.S. Department of Education, 1993.

Clark, Warren. Adult Literacy in Canada, the United States and Germany. (http://www.nald.ca/fulltext/pat/AL/htm )

Education for All 2000 Assessment: Statistical Document.World Education Forum, Dakar, Senegal, 26?28, April 2000. UNESCO Institute for Statistics for the International Consultative Forum on Education for All 2000. (See UNESCO Web page: http://www.unesco.org )

Literacy, Economy, and Society: Results of the First International Adult Literacy Survey. Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and Statistics Canada, 1995.

Literacy in the Information Age: Final Report from the International Adult Literacy Survey. Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and Statistics, Canada, June 2000

Literacy Skills for the Knowledge Society: Further Results from the International Adult Literacy Survey. Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and Human Resources Development Canada, 1997. (http://www.oecd.org)

Reading the Future: A Portrait of Literacy in Canada. Statistics Canada, Human Resources Development Canada and the National Literacy Secretariat, 1996.

E-mail Addresses for Standing Committee Members and Project Participants

John Y. Cole, USA

Adele M Fasick,, USA

Alice Buglogosi, Kenya

Gwynneth Evans, Canada

Shirley Fitzgibbons,, USA

Ivar Haug, Norway

Martha Pattillo-Siv, USA

Irene Sever, Israel

Shmuel Sever, Israel

Valeria Stelmakh, Russia

Catharina Stenberg, Sweden

Shirley Tastad, USA

Carmen Gomez Valera, Spain

Maria Vedenyapina, Russia

Section on Reading on IFLANET

Members of the Section on Reading and others interested in the Section's work can find current information about the Section on IFLANET, the official IFLA Web site at www.ifla.org . Click on "Sections." The Section on Reading is number 33, and a click on that item will bring you to the information about the Section's goals, projects, publications, and program. You may also go directly to: www.ifla.org/VII/s33/sr.htm

IFLA Section on Reading Contact Information

Contact IFLA Headquarters:
P.O.B. 95312,
2509 CH The Hague,
Tel: +(31)(70)3140884
Fax: +(31)(70)3834827

Contact IFLA Section on Reading Officers:
Chair John Y. Cole,

Center for the Book, Library of Congress,
101 Independence Ave., SE,
Washington, DC 20540-4920,
Tel: 202-707-5221
Fax: 202-707-0269,
E-mail: jcole@loc.gov

Adele M. Fasick

1386 28th Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94122
phone/fax: 415-564-3096
E-mail: amfasick@earthlink.net


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