Huffington Post: Changing the World with the Power of Girls’ Voices

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Originally published on Huffington Post by Pam Allyn, LitWorld's Executive Director and Founder.

“Once a girl has knowledge, she will be able to fight for her own rights and prove others wrong. Then she will succeed in life and even empower others girls.” These powerful words were written in the Community Action Plan proposal to apply for the Global HerStory Summit, from our HerStory Ambassadors from Kenya.

I immediately knew that these courageous, inspiring girls had to be a part of our event! Their strong words and strong spirits resonate with the core of our work. I founded my organization, LitWorld, to provide every child with a base of literacy and the knowledge and perspective to author their own future of independence that is not predetermined by geography or gender or poverty or a zip code.

Now the Summit is here, and next week, the HerStory Campaign, powered by LitWorld and Global G.L.O.W., will host our 2nd annual Global HerStory Summit. Teams of women and girls from communities around the world where we work will gather in New York City as HerStory Ambassadors. Together, we will spend the week developing their Community Action Plans into a concrete strategy to be able to implement positive and impactful change driven by women and girls in their home communities.

The Summit will be a joyful one, full of storytelling and arts workshops, opportunities to build new friendships and deepen the global HerStory network and connect with other changemakers, as well as visits to iconic sites in New York City. The Summit is also held in conjunction with UN Women during their annual Commission on the Status of Women, to allow the authentic and diverse perspectives of women and girls to inform plans aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

One of the student leaders in Kenya, Winnie, is the oldest child in her family and has been caring for her siblings after her mother passed away five years ago. Despite the challenges she has faced, being part of the HerStory Campaign for the past two years has given Winnie the strength to forge ahead with courage and hope for the future. Winnie and her group’s Community Action Plan will provide sex education for girls in her community in a campaign called “I Read, I Lead.” In Winnie’s community, access to information about women’s health and sexual health is limited. She understands that education is powerful and allows girls to make strong choices for themselves.

Winnie is our future. She is seeking knowledge, empowering herself and working to make her community in Kenya a better place for herself and others. Her story is just starting, but it is one of strength, curiosity and confidence. Through our work, we are proud to amplify her voice, her spirit and her determination.

I hope that you will come hear her story. You are invited to join our HerStory Ambassadors from several countries as they share their stories and ideas for change in song, poem and video at a our UN Women CSW Parallel Event. I will be there, along with other leaders of the HerStory Campaign, to discuss progress of the Campaign around the world, the most pressing issues facing girls, and how to get involved in this crucial movement to help girls in the most challenging communities become agents of change. Please join us in the crucial movement of gender equity, community change and the power of stories to change the world.

Celebrate #WomensDay with the HerStory Campaign

60 women and girls. From 10 countries. 
Their stories will change the world.

On this International Women's Day we are thrilled to announce that our second annual Global HerStory Summit, powered by LitWorld and Global G.L.O.W., is less than two weeks away. Sixty women and girls from around the world will come together in New York City for an inspiring week of storytelling, self-empowerment and community action. 

In the lead-up to the summit, our HerStory Ambassadors developed Community Action Plans: blueprints for positive, innovative change driven by women and girls. They will spend the week building their projects through workshops and collaboration, putting ideas into action upon their return. 

We can think of no better way to celebrate International Women's Day (and Women's History Month!) than to highlight the work women and girls do every day to transform their communities for the better.

Every girl deserves to be known by her strength and her story. Go to herstorycampaign.org to learn more about how the HerStory Campaign amplifies the stories of women and girls. 

If you'd like to be a part of our Global HerStory Summit, join us on Monday, March 20 at 4:30pm for Girls' Stories Changing the World: A UN Women CSW Parallel Event. Our HerStory Ambassadors and leaders will share their ideas for change and the impact of the HerStory Campaign. 

10 Amazing Things That Happened on WRAD

On February 16, we celebrated the most spectacular World Read Aloud Day. We are grateful for everyone--from families and classrooms to entire communities around the globe--who joined us to spread the power of the read aloud! Together, we're changing the world one story at a time. Here are our top ten highlights from the big day. 

1. #WorldReadAloudDay and #WRAD17 Trended on Twitter
The #WorldReadAloudDay movement keeps growing each year, and we loved seeing the many ways everyone celebrated the read aloud on social media!

2. NYC DOE Chancellor Carmen Fariña Announced a New Literacy Initiative
The morning of WRAD, New York Department of Education Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced an incredible initiative to expand classroom libraries for young readers. She also gave a great read aloud of The Big Orange Splot.

3. Chelsea Clinton and Mo Willems Tweeted About WRAD!
We were honored to have such enthusiastic and widespread support for World Read Aloud Day. Check out the tweets here and here.

4. LitWorld Partners Reached Tens of Thousands
From Nigeria to India to Honduras, tens of thousands experienced the power of the read aloud. Check out our album to see how others celebrated.

5. The LA Times Joined the WRAD Movement
The LA Times shared their list of hand-picked and family-friendly read alouds, featuring Betty White, Shel Silverstein and the Obamas! 

6. Scholastic Released A Special World Read Aloud Day Podcast
LitWorld leaders and literacy advocates Pam Allyn and Ernest Morrell highlighted the importance of the read aloud in the latest Scholastic Reads podcast! Take a listen to reflect on the impact of reading in children's' lives, and stay motivated to read aloud all year long.

7. NYPL Librarians Shared Their Top Children's Books
New York Public Library children's librarians had a special virtual story time via Facebook Live. Local branches around the city also hosted their own unique celebrations.

8. Colson Whitehead Read Aloud from The Underground Railroad
At an event hosted by the 92nd St Y, Colson Whitehead presented a powerful excerpt from his new novel, The Underground Railroad. You can still watch the stream online.

9. Clifford Brought the Joy!
At our main New York WRAD event in Harlem, the students at Mt. Carmel Holy Rosary couldn't contain their excitement as Clifford made an appearance. The kids also made reading crowns and bookmarks, saw a thrilling performance by the Story Pirates, and crowded around the reading corner for fun read alouds.

10. Coretta Scott King's Memoir Swept Both Coasts
We wrapped up WRAD with the families at LitWorld's Story21 program. They heard a lovely read aloud of Coretta Scott King's autobiography, My Life, My Love, My Legacy, from the book's editor Barbara Jones. In North Long Beach, California, girls with our #HerStoryCampaign partner Global G.L.O.W. enjoyed a read aloud with Nina Richardson, wife of Vice Mayor Rex Richardson.

- World Read Aloud Day 2017 is proudly sponsored by Scholastic -

USAID and LitWorld Celebrate Access and Universal Literacy on World Read Aloud Day

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights set the record in 1999 as the most translated document in the world. Today, it has been translated into 501 languages and dialects from Abkhaz to Zulu, and there is an ongoing effort to translate it into many more.

For one of the most seminal documents in the history of human rights, accessibility is key. Translating has been paramount to granting wide access, but literacy ensures that everyone can read and understand the message of the Declaration for themselves, in any language. Undeniably, language and literacy go hand-in-hand.

Just as language barriers can be extremely limiting, barriers to literacy can feel overwhelming for children and adults alike. Literacy is a slow moving emergency--it is a disaster when it doesn’t happen. And according to the Global Reading Network, 250 million children around the world are not learning foundational reading skills. LitWorld and USAID are working to close the gap because we believe that literacy is not a gift given to just some lucky ones--it is a foundational human right that brings joy, economic independence, gender equity and a pathway out of poverty. Everyone should have it.

It is impossible to advocate for universal literacy, though, without also promoting the many ways people experience literacy--through their own languages. In the same way that words can help us learn about ourselves, the languages within our homes, schools and communities are key to understanding the cultural values of the spaces we occupy. There are over 6,000 spoken languages in the world today, and each one of them represents a powerful medium for literacy, and the transformation that comes with it.

LitWorld’s work has scaled with this commitment to celebrating all languages. We partner with grassroots organizations in 26 countries where mentors from the local community are strengthened through the knowledge of their own language and norms, as well as training and support from the LitWorld programming team. Our LitClubs and LitCamps, which cultivate joyful learning experiences for kids during critical out-of-school time, are conducted in over 10 different languages.

Through the Global Reading Network, an association of NGOs, donor institutions, local communities, and academic institutions, USAID is committed to building national and local capacity for sustainable early grade reading programs. Global Reading Network members also participate in other USAID-supported initiatives (like the Global Book Alliance, Enabling Writers, and the Global Digital Library), in order to help all gain the ability to read to learn.

Through our advocacy, both organizations seek to spread the joy of literacy and language. World Read Aloud Day on February 16, 2017, celebrates the read aloud as a simple act with a huge impact in kids’ lives. It is the perfect symbol for universal literacy as it helps create accessible reading communities. Just a few days later on February 21, 2017, International Mother Language Day celebrates the power of language to cultivate a quality education and  for all. This year’s theme is “Towards Sustainable Futures through Multilingual Education.”

Join LitWorld and USAID as we champion for a high-quality, culturally-responsive education for all children that meets their needs in literacy and language, and ushers them into a bigger, brighter future.


 

Celebrate WRAD with a "Llama Llama" Read Aloud

World Read Aloud Day celebrates the read aloud as a simple act with a huge impact in kids’ lives. No one understood that more than beloved children's author Anna Dewdney.

As LitWorld's founder Pam Allyn writes on Brightly:

Anna Dewdney, the passionately adored author of so many beautiful books for children, taught us through her example that the power of the read aloud cannot be underestimated. It is profound, powerful, and life changing.

Her last wish was that instead of honoring her with a funeral, people find a child to read aloud to in her memory. Her message resonates so deeply with all of us at LitWorld. This year we dedicate World Read Aloud Day, our signature holiday for the power of reading aloud, to Anna Dewdney. Worldwide, the voices of all who read will sing with the memory of her beautiful last call to action.

Together, let us honor the life of Anna Dewdney. Skype in the Classroom and Penguin are joining together to celebrate her legacy by offering virtual read alouds of Llama Llama Red Pajama to classrooms all over! Guest readers include Molly Idle, Juana Medina, Loren Long, and Anna's daughter, Berol Dewdney.

We encourage you to take part in a #llamallamareadaloud on World Read Aloud Day to remember "Mama Llama," Anna Dewdney.