On September 17, Literacy stakeholders and ELINET Partners from all over Europe traveled to Brussels for the special closing event of the first Literacy Week.
The event started with an opening statement by Commissioner Tibor Navracsics posing the question: “How can we face the future when 1 in 5 Europeans is struggling with literacy?”. While there is no straight answer to this question, throughout the event multiple ways on how to help solve the problem were highlighted.
The Commissioner was followed by innovative speaker Rob Adams, founder of the company Six Fingers. His keynote speech about innovation and thinking outside the box impressed the audience and was referred to multiple times during the event by other speakers. “A solution without pain, won’t move anybody”, stated Rob, referring to ways to solve a big issue like low literacy in Europe.
Next on stage was Learner Ambassador Sam Riley, who shared his personal story of what it was like to be unable to read and write for a good part of his adult life. He learned te read after he got out of prison and it “changed my life”, according to Sam. The audience was able to ask questions to Sam using Buzzmaster, an interactive tool allowing the audience to directly interact with what’s happening on stage via polls or questions, using their smartphone.
Glòria Pérez Salmerón, President Elect IFLA, talked about how Public Libraries can help accomplish a more literate Europe, by using the network of the 65.000 public libraries in Europe: “Public Libraries can help construct a new world where everyone can read and write”. She was followed by Annet Bakker, chair of EPEA, who spoke about that low literacy is very common among prison inmates and that it is very important to invest in literacy as part of their reintegration into society.
After a quick coffee break, it was time for the Literacy Week Innovation Award ceremony. Based on the criteria ‘innovation’, ‘reach of audience’ and ‘used resources’, three of the events registered for Literacy Week before August 16 were nominated. The following three events were in the running to win the first Literacy Week Innovation Award:
- The value of literacy, 8 September – Finnish Refugee Council, Helsinki, Finland: An incomprehensible and unreadable text is printed in Finnish newspapers accompanied by the question “how does it make you feel not being able to read the text?”
- Grammar on the road, 11 September – Primary School Hristo Botev, Sofia, Bulgary: Primary school students make road signs with grammar rules and hit the streets to ask people passing by whether they know the rules.
- We create stories, 12 September – ByL InEdu, Valencia, Spain: A contest of writing microstories takes place, followed by transforming these stories in digital stories using Scratch.
The winner was decided during the event itself. The audience used Buzzmaster to cast their vote on the event they felt should win the award. The winner was the Bulgarian project ‘Grammar on the road’. The trophee was handed out by H.R.H. Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands.
Afterwards, H.R.H. Princess Laurentien held a speech about what she feels should be the next step to tackle the issue of low literacy in Europe. Her message to all the partners is to “start defining the issue of low literacy as investment in a healthy, productive society!” Her speech concluded with a little talk with Sam Riley during which the Princess applauded Sam for his hard work.
The event was closed by a speech of Commissioner Marianne Thyssen. She addressed how important it is to take action and to help the shocking number of low literate people in Europe. “Low literacy reduces your chances of finding a job by 50%”, said the Commissioner, stressing the importance of basic skills like reading and writing.