Literacy: a way out of poverty

An innovative approach to developing reading skills in young learners is having a big impact in countries across Africa and South Asia.

Global impact

Literacy program reaches 1.7 million children in 27 countries. 83,000 teachers as well as 18,000 youth volunteers trained in ways to boost children’s literacy. 4.4 million new books/reading materials written in local languages distributed for use in 6,000 after school reading camps.

Global need

250 million primary school aged children cannot read, write or count well enough to meet minimum learning standards.

Addressing the global literacy challenge 

Globally it’s estimated that 250 million children are not learning basic literacy and numeracy skills, even though half have attended school for at least four years.

Through our Unlock Literacy program, we are working with schools and local communities in countries across Africa and South Asia to improve children's reading skills.

Since 2012, this program has reached 1.7 million children, trained 83,000 teachers and enabled the production of 4.4 million locally relevant books.

The results of a trial conducted in Ethiopia showed that the percentage of children who could read with comprehension had risen from three percent to 25 percent after taking part in the program. This was compared to the control group, where the percentage of children who could read with comprehension only rose to nine percent.

In a similar trial in Bangladesh, the results were even more impressive. Sixty-eight percent of children could read with comprehension after taking part in the program compared to four percent in the control group.

Unlock Literacy provides opportunities for children to practise their reading skills both in and out of the classroom.


Unlock Literacy has four key pillars

  • Reading assessments measure children’s reading levels regularly, to evaluate their needs and track their progress.
  • Teacher training empowers local teachers with key skills to ensure children are motivated to learn in the classroom.
  • Community action mobilises parents and communities to support children as they learn to read through fun out-of-school reading camps.
  • Creation of locally relevant and grade-appropriate reading materials helps to engage children in their learning.

In Ethiopia, for example, many children don’t have access to books in their mother tongue. So World Vision has partnered with universities and local printers to publish 386 new book titles in local languages. So far over one million copies of these books have been distributed across 2,400 reading camps.

Parents like Bekelu are seeing their children make great progress by taking part in the program.

“I am very happy seeing my children’s academic improvements,” she says. “Previously, even though we sent our children to school, they could only identify some letters and could not read. My husband and I did not have time to help them. After they started attending reading camps and studying with their brother at home, I have seen great progress in all of them. Their classroom ranks have improved.”

Ethiopia's reading revolution



The program has so far trained this many teachers in Ethiopia, as well as 9,000 youth volunteers in ways to boost children’s literacy.



According to UNESCO, 15 percent of Ethiopia’s adult population is illiterate. Unlock Literacy is helping to reduce this number.

1 million

new books

Young Ethiopian learners are enjoying 386 new book titles written in local languages distributed to 2,400 reading camps across the country.




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