Project Literacy: The Woman Who Defied The Odds and Wrote Her Own Book

by Irene

We see words everywhere. Waking up and scrolling our newsfeed on social media, we are confronted with words from our friends and family, from media outlets and small businesses who want to advertise their services. When we head out for the day to work or school, we see words on billboard signs and cafés. We choose the foods we want to eat at a restaurant based on what they have on offer on their menu. Words are so important that we may sometimes forget how significant they are in our lives.

However, not everyone in the world has learned to read and write. What comes so naturally and easy to most of us is a scary place for illiterate people. There are many children and adults worldwide who are illiterate. This means that not only can they not write, they cannot read at all.

You may think that you have never met anyone that can read or write but people who are illiterate might simply be good at hiding it. Perhaps you remember sitting next to someone in school who was asked to read in front of the whole classroom, only to find that their reading capabilities hindered them from future learning. 

Most frequently, the causes of illiteracy in adult’s stem from children who had little school education, a lack of encouragement to read at home, a lack of books in the home and trying living conditions. There are over 750 million people globally who struggle with illiteracy which has made this situation a global crisis. That’s one in ten people living right now.

As a result, The United Nations have established Sustainable Development Goals, which are goals catering to every country on Earth. World leaders and the United Nations met together and decided that literacy was a fundamental part of achieving these Sustainable Development Goals. 

Pearson, a leading global learning company, founded and arranged a campaign called Project Literacy. Their main goal is to change the world by ending illiteracy through raising awareness about the importance of reading and writing. Reading and writing are basic human rights that are more powerful than we may realize. The ultimate goal is that every child worldwide will be able to read and write by the year 2030. Closing the gap of adults not being able to read or write means that we need to start with the new generation of children. 

A woman named Wanda Steward is one who has defied the odds. After dropping out of school in the 10th grade, she thought that the day would never come where she would be able to read and write. Now aged 47-years-old, Wanda has spent the past year learning how to read and write. Wanda would look at the pictures of a book and make up her own stories to go with what the pictures showed her. Remarkably, she has taken this method of learning to understand books, and has written her very own children’s book called “The Little Chicken Named Pong-Pong”. By reimagining the popular classic children’s book “Chicken Little”, she has made something new with her own character Pong-Pong.

The latest episode of 60 Second Docs is a compelling recount of Wanda's amazing story.

Actor and author Idris Elba says, “Even if you can’t read and write, you can pass on the love of reading and writing to your kids, which is proven to make them more likely to become literate themselves.”

Project Literacy has a website which allows you to download your very own free copy of Wanda’s children’s book “The Little Chicken Named Pong-Pong”. For every book that is downloaded online, Pearson will give $1 to charities which fund adult literacy. To get involved, you can help rewrite lives by donating, sharing this article with your friends and family, and becoming a volunteer, no matter where in the world you may be.