My grandfather, Charlie, didn’t know how to read. As a child, I watched him struggle to carry out the simplest of tasks, from writing checks to reading letters. Charlie was raised on a farm in North East Tasmania and left school at the age of nine to help support his family. Although he loved working the land, he always possessed a deep longing to learn to read. So one day, after more than 30 years of being illiterate, Charlie picked up a book and decided it was time to learn.
Charlie spent countless hours, night after night studying, asking questions, and learning to piece letters together; letters that would soon become words, words that would soon formulate sentences, and sentences that would develop into paragraphs, short stories, novels, concepts, and ideas. I remember how excited I was each time I would visit my grandfather and we would sit in his chair and read aloud together.
I faced my own personal struggle with reading in the form of dyslexia, which made it difficult for me to grasp spelling and reading through traditional learning. Even in the midst of enormous frustration, my grandfather’s motivation and drive remained an inspiration to me throughout my lifetime.
Years later, whilst traveling through Asia and Africa, I met countless other children and adults who had also missed the opportunity to receive an education. I listened to their stories and felt inspired by their desire to learn, which in turn inspired me to form the World Literacy Foundation. I began to truly understand the connection between reading and possibilities, not just for a farmhand in rural Tasmania, but for the classrooms of young minds I encountered in Kenya, or the single mother in Manizales, Colombia who needed to learn to write a check.
There exists a global connection between us all, and at the World Literacy Foundation we believe that education and literacy are the cornerstones for realizing one’s true potential. As the world changes and technology advances, we will continue to invest our time and resources into new ideas so that people can use new technology to access education. We hope that with a little bit of help, passion, and innovation, we can eradicate illiteracy and give each person around the globe a chance to craft their own journey.