Encouraging a love of books and ideas for a brighter future
Literacy is the foundation for all learning and the prerequisite of economic development. For individuals, it leads to lower levels of poverty, better jobs and longer, healthier lives. For society, it leads to lower crime, more civic participation and higher GDP. Increasing literacy, even marginally, can have a profound effect on our world. But there are three main obstacles that have long stood in the way: the availability of books (a distribution challenge), the lack of a reading habit (a cultural challenge) and the lack of tools to drive confidence for investment by the many players needed to create a vibrant book ecosystem (a business challenge).
The distribution challenge: out of sight…
Not surprisingly, literacy rates in any community are correlated with the availability of books. Unfortunately, book deserts – places where books simply do not exist – are all too common, especially in the developing world. The mere presence of books in a community – just seeing books being sold among other goods in a market, for example – is associated with higher literacy rates. In short, you can’t come to value something if you don’t even know it exists.
The cultural challenge: you can lead a horse to water…
Eliminating book deserts is necessary to increase literacy, but alone it’s not sufficient.
Parental/caregiver engagement is the key to help children define who they are and develop life-long habits. This includes whether or not they read. If parents share books with their children from an early age, their children are much more likely to become capable readers. What’s more, they will enjoy the benefits of growing up in a scholarly culture – defined simply as the openness to and love of books and ideas.
The business challenge: what gets measured…
The only true way to create meaningful literacy, especially in developing nations, is to create markets for books that work. An ecosystem of book writers, publishers, sellers, mentors AND readers all must be connected with proper data to inspire and drive investment and interactions with one another. Small markets in developing nations lack this kind of data because it hasn’t been easy to collect or make financial sense for global measurement companies to invest in.
At the Foundation for Scholarly Culture, we create and support projects which address each of these three challenges. In line with where we see the greatest need, we currently have a special focus on refugee camps and developing nations in Africa. We are excited by the work we are doing and invite you to join us to share your love of books!