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Celebrating International Literacy Day in Nigeria With 30 Under 30 Honoree Seun Aina

By Alina O'Donnell
 | Sep 08, 2017

Magical BooksSeptember 8 was proclaimed International Literacy Day (ILD) by UNESCO in 1965 to highlight the importance of literacy to individuals, communities, and societies. This year’s theme of “Literacy in a Digital World highlights the challenges and opportunities in promoting literacy in the digital age.

In Ibadan, Nigeria, a group of students celebrated ILD and embraced this year’s theme of “Literacy in a Digital World” by Skyping with award-winning author Kathy Brodsky from more than 5,000 miles away, says Oluwaseun “Seun” Aina, 2015 ILA 30 Under 30 honoree and founder of Magical Books.

Aina met Brodsky at the ILA 2016 Conference & Exhibits. After learning more about Magical Books and meeting the students via Skype, Brodsky donated a complete collection of her books to the organization, which promotes lifelong reading habits and learning attitudes among children and young adults.

Since the start of the Magical Books Summer Reading Challenge on August 7, Aina’s students, ages 5–14, have been reading Brodsky’s books and writing letters to the author. Aina says this communication has made them more inspired and excited about their own writing and reading projects.

“She shared with them how she became a reader, how it changed her life, what reading can do for them. She passed on some knowledge that those children will never forget. That’s what I see in the future to create lifelong readers and learners to impact that generation,” says Aina.

Aina believes societal values and weak government support are among the main barriers to literacy in Nigeria, where the overall adult literacy rate is estimated at 56.9%. Through her work, Aina is advancing her vision of a country that celebrates literacy and ensures that every child can read, write, and speak.

“It’s not as valued as it should be. I think the challenge is—even the government—they don’t celebrate literacy the way it should be celebrated,” she says. “You have singing competitions being celebrated more than educational programs. If the government officials are not celebrating literacy and don’t appreciate it—how much more can we?”

Aina’s long-term goal is to establish a communal literacy center with a full library, bookstore, and comfortable reading “nooks” that encourage reading for pleasure.

“Children who haven’t gotten the essence of reading...they will,” she says. “I’m reimagining a literacy center where students don’t want to leave.”

In recognition of ILD, we invite you to nominate a literacy champion for ILA’s next 30 Under 30 list. Founded in 2015, the program shines a spotlight on young innovators, disruptors, and visionaries who are leading efforts to overcome the challenges of today’s education field and to advance our vision of a literate world for all. If you know someone who is under the age of 30 (as of March 1, 2019) and who has shown extraordinary dedication to ILA’s mission, we invite you to complete a short nomination form here. All nominations must be received by 11:59 p.m. ET on June 1, 2018.  

Alina O'Donnell is the editor of
Literacy Daily.

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