Fun Ideas to Celebrate International Literacy Day

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

-Dr. Seuss, Bookroo

September 8th is International Literacy Day (ILD). This celebration, started by UNESCO, promotes the importance of literacy around the globe.

Are you looking for some great and effective ways to help and celebrate the day?

It can be hard to come up with fun and exciting activities to make literacy fun. So, we’ve put together a list of 27 literacy activities to help you celebrate this year’s ILD.

Take a look.

27 Literacy Activities for ILD & Beyond

Here are a few literacy ideas for a variety of groups. From the classroom to your community to online, there’s a little bit here for everyone. Find your favorites and try them this International Literacy Day.

In the Classroom

The classroom is obviously an important place to increase literacy rates. But, it can be hard to come up with new ways to encourage the development of literacy skills. So, I’ve put together a few ideas according to age group you can use for your students.

Let’s get started.

• Preschool

Starting kids early in reading sets them up for life.

Your location needs to encourage reading in its earliest forms. Placing letters and numbers on the walls helps build recognition. And, interacting with the children to help them comprehend the sounds associated with them helps set a foundation for later.

But, you may be looking for other ways to push the kids and build on their developing grasp on reading.

Here are a few ideas you can use this coming International Literacy Day and after.

⚬ Reading Time with Discovery Bottles
Three Glowing Bottles in Blue, Green, and Purple

Set aside a special reading time for ILD by introducing Discovery Bottles.

What are Discovery Bottles?

In a nutshell, they’re a container filled with liquid and elements from a story. They help young children to calm down and focus on the story as they relate what is in the bottle to the reading. They’re easy to make as you can use almost any container with a sturdy seal. Even better, have the kids help make them.

Bring in some toys or related items to the stories you plan on reading. For example, get some small toy fruit and a caterpillar if you plan on reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Talk with them about how the toys relate to the books. Once all the stuff is in, you should add the water and any additives like baby oil or food coloring. After all, you don’t want any spills.

As you’re reading to the students, have them pass the Discovery Bottle around. Make sure it keeps moving throughout the story so everyone gets a chance.

Teach Preschool has more ideas on how to make your Discovery Bottles special. Best of all, you can use the bottles you make for ILD throughout the year.

⚬ Sound Matching Games
Wood Blocks Spelling Play

There are tons of ways to go about this. But, it all boils down to setting up letters and giving the kids a way to interact with them.

You can prop up Popsicle sticks in cups and have them knock them over. Stick letters to a wall and have them toss a small ball at them. Or, have several balls with letters written on them and roll them to the kids.

Whatever method you choose, the children should sound out the corresponding letter they interact with. These help their early literacy capabilities and their motor skills.

⚬ Feather & Salt Tray Writing
Girls Writing at a Desk

This is another idea from Teach Preschool for salt tray writing.

First things first, get some trays (preferably plastic with rounded edges). Next, add a layer of salt or other granular material like sand. Then, get some bright colored feathers. And finally, have the kids start writing.

The idea for this learning activity is to improve the kids’ fine motor skills and writing comprehension. Using feathers lets them write with the pointed end and “erase” with the other.

• Kindergarten

Kindergarten is the time to nurture and focus in on kids’ literacy prowess. You can help their growth by encouraging them to read more. Read to themselves, read to their peers, read to you. However you want to do it.

And, to help, here are a few literacy activities for kindergartners you can try.

⚬ Reading Time (for the Kids)
Child in Glasses Reading a Book

Time to get those kids reading.

For ILD, set aside a special time to let your students read their favorite children’s books. Have them bring it in from home if they want. Or, visit your local library and pick out from their selection if your kids don’t have one.

Depending on your class, you can encourage quiet reading or have your students read to each other. This helps build confidence in their literary and speaking abilities. Also, you know, who doesn’t love sharing a story?

⚬ Class Pen Pal
Young Girl Writing on Paper

This might be a fun idea for your class.

Pair off each of them. Then, separate them and have each write to the other. They could write what their favorite color or food is, what they like about the other, their favorite joke, or whatever. Whatever you feel they’re capable of as long as it’s positive.

Once everyone has their letter written, have them “send” their letter to their pen pal either through you or by hand. Let them read their letter.

You can do this a few more times with different pairings depending on your time.

The point is to encourage the kids to practice both their writing and reading skills. They need to write clear enough for someone else to read. And, they need to understand what someone else wrote.

⚬ Make Your Own Bookmarks
Craft Rubber Stamps Designs on Colored Paper

Who doesn’t love a good craft project?

To help your kids keep their place in their storybooks, you can have them make their own bookmarks related to those books. They don’t need to be elaborate; some construction paper, markers, glue, and glitter would do.

  1. Cut out the shapes of the bookmarks ahead of time or let the kids use safety scissors
  2. Lay out your materials (card stock, construction paper, glitter, stickers, rubber craft stamps, glue, etc.)
  3. Give your students a list of books to theme their project around
  4. Supervise their tables and ask them questions about the book they chose as their theme

Now the children will have their own bookmarks to use whenever they read. It’s their own reading accessory that might encourage them to read since they’ll want to use it.

• Elementary

Time to get a little more serious.

With the foundation for literacy set, elementary students need to start really putting their skills to the test. Encourage them to apply their reading skills in writing and talking about their favorite stories.

You can use some of the literacy activities for elementary kids below to help and celebrate ILD.

⚬ Favorite Book Reading Time
Young Girl Reading a Book Upside Down

Much like in the kindergarten version, set aside time to let your kids read their favorite book.

Unlike the kindergarten version, this reading should be done alone and in quiet. Though, I’d suggest putting on some relaxing music as background noise. At this point in their scholastic development, your students should learn to read to themselves.

Again, if some of your students don’t have a favorite story or don’t have access to them, check out a public library. I’ve heard those are pretty good spots for book mining.

The point is, encourage the kids to read. If they start to enjoy it, then they’re hooked.

⚬ Start a Journal
Children Sitting at their Desks

This idea comes from Reading Rockets.

A journal is a fantastic way to get your kids to learn how to reflect on their lives. It lets them put their thoughts onto paper and encourages them to stay observant of their surroundings. Give them an outlet to process how they feel about things and encourage them to include that in their journal. Also, they can stretch their creative writing muscles. They can write poems, stories, songs, whatever they want in their journal.

Developing writing proficiency helps solidify reading comprehension. Your kids put what they learn through reading and listening to the test as they write.

The journals don’t need to be complex. In fact, I’d suggest staring with basic notebooks to start. The kids can decorate them however they want then.

Challenge your students to use vocabulary words in their journal entries. You can really drive home the real-world applications of these words if you encourage the kids to use them.

⚬ Start a Pen Pal Program
Two Girls Writing on Papers

We ain’t in kindergarten anymore. Let’s take the pen pal scene national.

ILD is a great time to start your own pen pal program for your students.

Your students get to practice not only their creative writing skill but also their handwriting and reading comprehension. As they prepare their letters, they have to think through what they want to tell their pen pal and how to say it. And then, they get to read their pen pal’s letter when it comes in.

Not only do the kids practice their literacy skills, but they also get to learn about someone else. In short, their worldview expands from reading someone else’s letter.

Make sure you have a customized address stamp for your class on-hand to make preparing the envelopes fast and easy.

• Middle School

Junior high kids can be difficult to work with. They’ve got the foundations and started building their literacy skills. And, they might have a good grasp on them.

But, they still need encouragement to continue that growth.

Here are a few literacy ideas for middle school you can start this upcoming International Literacy Day.

⚬ Set Up a Small Library
Spines of Classic Books

If you have a bunch of books lying around, why not set up a “public” library for your kids? Or, have them bring in books they’re willing to donate to the library.

You should set it up in a fairly conspicuous place. Otherwise, you might run into “out of sight, out of mind” problems. And then, no one will use it.

Encourage your students to borrow books from the library and return them when they’re done. Mark any donated books with a bookplate embosser or stamp so everyone knows where they came from. Or, have a “take-a-book, leave-a-book” policy. Kids can take a book in exchange for a different one.

The idea here is to spread the variety of books and genres out there. A student might discover something they didn’t know existed thanks to another and vice versa.

Set aside time during ILD to let the kids help you put it together. A cardboard box, some duct tape, regular tape, markers, and construction paper are all you need. Theme it around a specific book or series, a genre, or however you want. Then, bring in some books you want to donate and encourage your students to do the same.

⚬ Kick-Start a Read-a-Thon
Girl Reading a Tablet on a Couch

Ah, the spirit of competition.

Use ILD to mark the start of a Read-a-Thon for your class. There are a couple of ways to go about this:

  • Set a collective goal the class must reach in order to receive an award (like a pizza day)
  • Put them head-to-head in a bid to see who can read the most over a set period
  • A blend of the two; set an overall goal with tiered rewards for top readers (usually small rewards like a few bonus points of extra credit)

I’d suggest going with the last option. It encourages cooperation towards a common goal but gives enough incentive to push the more competitive students to test themselves against each other.

⚬ Line Up
Spines of Narnia Books

This one comes from Lexia.

Once your class finishes a story, set up this activity to gauge how well the comprehended the sequence of events.

  1. Write down events and/or plot points of the story on note cards
  2. Hand them out to your students (one for each or split them into groups)
  3. Give them time to discuss the sequence of events between each other
  4. Have them line up in the correct order to show they understand the plot

This encourages your students to engage and pay attention to the story beforehand. And, it’s a fun way to get the talking about what was read.

As a bonus, if you really want to challenge your students, ask a question related to their event. Why did this happen? Who was involved? Where did it happen? Things like that to make sure they understand the importance of their assigned plot point.

• High School

It seems like we forget about continuing literacy education once children leave middle school. But, advancing your students’ reading, writing, and speaking abilities helps them develop into capable adults.

Try out these literacy activities for high schoolers this ILD.

⚬ "How It Should Have Ended"
Spider-Man Reading a Newspaper on the Edge of a Building

Yes, I’m drawing inspiration from the YouTube channel of the same name. But, we’re taking a slightly more critical take on the idea.

Anyway, on to the activity.

Have your students re-write the end to a book. It could be their favorite story or a book from class. Their endings should make sense in the context of the plot and characters. So, it’ll require some analysis.

They don’t need to be long (this should be fun, remember), but the kids need to justify their changes. If you want, you could have them present to the class and open a discussion on the changes.

This activity encourages critical reading comprehension and creative writing skills. Your students need to demonstrate they read the source material and understand why their changes make sense.

⚬ Improvised Story
Pile of Note Cards, Top Reads Improvised Story

Another way to flex those creative writing muscles is to have your students write an improvised short story based on given prompts.

Love to Know, the basis of this activity, encourages students to give a speech about a funny image with an added genre. While this is a good angle to take as it encourages public speaking as well, I’d also say to twist it into more of a writing prompt.

Here’s what I suggest:

  1. Gather a bunch of funny or weird pictures and/or text prompts (in the age of social media, places like Twitter and Reddit are great resources)
  2. List out genres, one for each prompt (repeats are okay)
  3. Put them into separate receptacles (a hat, a bin, an empty fish bowl, whatever)
  4. Have each student take a prompt and genre
  5. Set a time to let them write (10 minutes sound good?)
  6. Have them present their stories to the class
  7. (Optional) Or, have them exchange their stories with each other

This should be a fun exercise. It’s not meant to be a serious examination of their writing abilities. But, it is meant to exercise their creative writing skills and improvised thinking.

⚬ Media Analysis
Notebook, Pencil, Smart Phone, and Earbuds on a Bed

Time to tap into your students’ interests.

Ahead of ILD, have your class submit a piece of media. It could be a book, movie, TV show, song with lyrics, scripted podcast, whatever. But, it’s important to note, it needs to follow a scripted format. Improvisational and reality content like many YouTube videos or stand-up acts won’t really work here.

Screen the content of the submissions. I’d say they don’t need to be “school friendly,” but you need to make sure their analysis is.

Next, task your students with analyzing the writing from their submitted work. Ask them questions like:

  • What does this lyric/line mean?
  • What do you think this scene symbolizes if anything?
  • Why do you think the writer chose to take this approach?
  • How do you think the character/writer felt about their situation? Why?
  • Or any other question that requires critical thinking you can come up with.

It all boils down to improving their comprehension of their selected media. Encourage them to follow lines of thought and analyze the way their favorite movie, television show, or song is written.

At Your Public Library

Of course, it wouldn’t be International Literacy Day with supporting libraries around the globe.

Here are a few ways to celebrate ILD at your local library.

• Go

People Sitting on Cushions and Reading in a Library

Just go there.

Seriously.

When’s the last time you went to the library? Any library.

Take the time this ILD to visit your local library (if it’s open) and browse their selection. Look around to find the genre or author you’re interested in. Or, if you’re looking for a specific book, ask one of the librarians for help.

Libraries are a great yet dwindling resource. Sign up for a library card as a way to celebrate Literacy Day and check out a few.

And the best part? It’s free. It doesn’t get much better than that.

• Start/Join a Book Club

Stack of Pastel Jane Austen Books

International Literacy Day is the perfect time to start a book club.

Coordinate with library staff to find out what steps you need to take. You may need to pay a fee to reserve a room or find out the best time for gathering community members.

Your library might spread the word of your club after everything is set up. If you want to include other community members, you’ll probably need to provide your own fliers and other materials. But, they don’t need to be super professional. Anything that catches someone’s eye and informs them of your club and meeting dates will work.

Once you have all the logistics covered, all you need to do is decide on your first book. Maybe your book club focuses on a specific genre or certain prolific author. Whatever it is, make sure it stays fun.

• Hold a Poetry Reading Event

Group of People Reading and Talking

Time to let my theater background show.

Work with librarians and staff to organize a poetry reading time on September 8th. Let library goers know, inform the rest of the community through fliers, and spread the word.

Decide on whether you want to restrict readings to published works, personal poems, or both. It’s not a competition. The idea is to encourage people to show off their favorite poems and reading abilities.

Remember to keep the event focused to raise awareness for International Literacy Day. Maybe you can have a poetry reading/book drive or fundraiser event. Whatever you’re comfortable with and allowed to do.

At Home

Encouraging literacy at home is important to the development of your children. Not only that, it’s also good for advancing your own understanding.

Let’s move onto some ideas for encouraging literacy at home for ILD.

• Start a Reading Contest

A Couple Sitting on a Bed, Holding Books Over Their Faces

Do you and your family share interests in books? How about starting a competition to see who can finish one of those books first?

If you have a competitive family, this might be the nudge everyone needs to start reading.

  1. Pick a book that interests everyone
  2. Make sure everyone has a copy (or there are enough for everyone to trade off on reading)
  3. Mark ILD as the start date for everyone

Having everyone read the same story also gives you something to talk about. You can ask each other questions during the contest to make sure everyone’s actually reading. Gotta keep them honest, after all.

• Start Building Your Library

Woman Standing and Reading In Front of Bookshelves

Why not build a personal library?

Visit your local book store on ILD and shop around. Pick out your favorites for your collection, or see if you can find something new.

Keeping books around your household helps in encouraging your family to read.

Make a day of it and take the whole family. Let everyone pick out a book or two so it’s a collaborative effort. This way, everyone has something they can be excited about.

Save 20% on book stamps with code simply20, Book stamp design example reading From the Desk of Mrs. Braun

Add your own personal touch to your new books with custom library stamps. This way, you and your family know which book belongs to whom.

• Have a Reading Circle

Man and Woman Reading to Their Small Child

If you already have a small family library built, how about a group reading session?

Gather your family members and have them read a chapter or section from their book of choice.

Theme your evening around a topic or theme. Make sure everyone gets an equal amount of time (or pages) to read to the group. Reading aloud helps everyone build their reading comprehension and confidence.

If you have family members who are too young to read for themselves, read to them. Have them follow along with your finger.

Here’s the deal; the idea is to encourage everyone in your family to read. That’s the end goal here.

In Your Community

Help your community raise awareness for ILD and literacy in general. Starting in your local area means you can work closer and improve the quality of your community.

Here are a few things to try this year.

• Start Tutoring an Adult

Girl and Old Woman Reading a Book

Contact your local library or do some research to see what adult literacy programs are in your area. Connect with them to find adults in your community who want to improve their literacy skills.

Helping illiterate adults learn the skill they need can be a rewarding experience.

It’s important to note that you need to find people who want help improving their literacy skills. You might get less than ideal results if you approach someone you know (or don’t) asking if you can help them learn. While you might have the best intentions, you might offend someone.

• Host a Book Drive

Woman Reading Amongst Stacks of Books

Maybe your neighborhood wants to find a way to contribute to the international community.

Organize with your community and ask around for donations of old books. You can even find a public space and hold an event for your drive. Have poetry and short story readings or see if you can get a local author to attend for a signing.

But, remember: the purpose of your event is to gather books to then donate. Find either a local, national, or international organization to contribute to. The American Library Association has a list of donation organizations you can choose from. See how to donate and contact your organization of choice for further details.

• Host a Book Swap/Gift Giving Event

Couple Reading a Book Together

And, of course, the classic book swap.

Have a book (or several) you don’t want anymore? Maybe you have friends who do.

Well, what better way to spread the joys of these books than trading them with someone else?

This is a great way to learn about what kinds of books your friends and family enjoy. And, you might find your next favorite author or series.

Make a day of it. Bring snacks and beverages. Or, if you think you can pull it off, theme your book gifting event around a specific genre.

Find a public space or inexpensive venue to ensure plenty of space to set up for your event. Then, put out the word to your community. See how many attendees you attract. The more the merrier.

Online

Unfortunately, with the way the world is now, you might not have the chance to meet in-person for ILD.

Luckily, you can celebrate the day at home! Here are a few ideas to celebrate International Literacy Day online. Google Hangouts, Skype, Discord; there are a number of ways to connect with others in the digital world for ILD.

• Have a Short Story Writing Contest

Typewriter Typing Stories Matter

Maybe you and your friends have a creative streak. Take some time during the day to write short stories. Once everyone’s done, read them aloud over your chat client of choice.

Vote on your favorites or just do it for fun. We say "contest," but it doesn’t need to be a competition.

Include your family, friends, neighbors, whoever wants to join.

Flexing your creative writing muscles and sharing them is a great way to encourage literacy within your friend group and family. You demonstrate your grasp of grammar and syntax. And, you can help your loved ones improve their writing too!

• Start an Online Book Club

Man in Hazmat Suit Reading a Book on the Floor

Now, your local library might not be open. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t start your own book club.

Reach out to your friends, family, neighbors, and community to see who wants to participate.

For ILD, you can get everyone together (virtually!) and organize the group. Decide what you’re reading first, set up your next meeting, etc.

Like an in-person club, you can set a theme for your online group. Determine if you’re sticking with one author or genre for a while. Your group’s tastes will differ from another’s, so everyone should find something they can agree on.

• Host a Local Author Hangout

Woman Reading a Book into a Microphone

Support a local author for International Literacy Day.

See if you can find a published author in your community or from a nearby town. Reach out to them to see if they’re willing to speak on their works.

A few things you can ask include:

  • What their writing process is like
  • Their background and how it lead to them publishing their work
  • Why they write about their chosen topic or genre
  • What they enjoy about writing
  • What they think helps encourage literacy
  • Or anything else appropriate you can think of!

Getting a glimpse into an author’s process and experience might encourage others to read more. Or, maybe you’ll feel inspired to start writing your own stories and books!

How to Make Literacy Fun

Hopefully, the above ideas sound fun. The point of ILD is to raise awareness. But, injecting your teachings or literacy events with fun helps everyone.

These aren’t the only ways to make literacy fun. You should pursue whatever you think works for your students, children, family, or community.

Games, donation drives, live readings, signings. There are so many ways to spread awareness and improve literacy.

At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.

What is International Literacy Day?

International Literacy Day is a celebration that started in 1967 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. Otherwise known as UNESCO.

The day is meant to showcase and remind the world of the importance of literacy. And, to find new and clever ways to improve world literacy rates.

Why is Literacy Important?

Literacy is important because it affects almost every aspect of your daily life.

From reading a phone screen to understanding the news headlines, your reading skills come into play. Without them, people might fail to understand written instructions for medications or safety warnings on signs.

That’s why it’s so important to support literacy and education for all. Increasing reading comprehension helps society as a whole.

According to UNESCO, there are 773 million illiterate adults around the globe. Nearly two-thirds of whom are women. And, from the National Center for Education Statistics, 43 million are functionally illiterate in the United States alone.

This infographic from the International Literacy Association shows some of the benefits including:

  • Less Poverty
  • Lower Early Mortality Rates
  • Stronger Economies
  • More Community Involvement
  • Improved Personal Well-Being

The Benefits of Literacy


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