To celebrate International Literacy Day this year, we are recognizing the incredible efforts of our partner Pangea Educational Development. They continue to amaze us with their hard work and dedication in bringing education and access to books to Uganda. Read more about what they are up to and updates on their Pangea Publishing Project.
What is literacy and why is it important?
The simple definition of the word ‘literacy’ is described as one’s ability to read and write, but the word can also be used when referring to a specialized field, like computer literacy, financial literacy, emotional literacy, etc.
Though it might come as a surprise to some, not everyone is literate, since many do not learn how to write and read around the world. Lacking these vital literacy skills is often what holds an individual behind in various stages of their life.
There is only so much information the brain can retain without being constantly exercised through reading. This is why it is important for children to be taught these basic skills at an early age so that their personal growth can happen one page at a time.
Reading and learning about other cultures is indeed fascinating and important, but knowing and understanding one’s own culture is just as important. It is empowering because it helps build identity and pride within one’s culture and experience. It is culturally relevant literature that shapes us as humans, that teaches us about our ancestors, that reminds us where our values and beliefs come from, why we think the way we think, and it helps us in our decision making the future.
Imagine never reading a story, or seeing an illustration, of someone that lived or looked like you.
Why is cultural literature relevant?
Each and every culture in the world has its own history with stories that have been handed down from generation to generation, either through word of mouth or written down into collections of books.
Being exposed to culturally relevant literature, as well as multicultural literature, gives people the chance to learn how to relate to others within their own culture and within other cultures, and to become more open minded to different behaviors, lifestyles, challenges, customs, and values of people. This helps in empowering both communities and celebrating diversity in cultures and experiences instead of creating an ‘other’ and isolating people’s experiences.
Most countries have gathered their own folklore stories which are often the stories that children grow up with. Everyone knows about the ancient Greek mythology and the Olympus Gods, about Cleopatra and the Gods of Egypt, Cesar and the great Roman Empire, samurais and geishas, Buddha, flying carpets, and so on. Some stories are fabulous, some are a true life lessons, and some express a dark past—but they all tell the tale of each culture’s life.
Not all of us are able to access the free books and the endless information on any topic that can be found on the internet. Not everyone knows who Red Riding Hood is, or even Winnie the Pooh. There are parts of this world where books and education are a luxury. Our partner Pangea Educational Development works to improve access to educational opportunities for people in Uganda—and they are now developing culturally relevant literature for their students, too.
Pangea Publishing – Spreading culturally relevant literature about Uganda
As with many other cultures, Ugandans have spread their stories and legends through the word of mouth over generations. In order to avoid losing these stories over generations moving forward, Pangea is taking action by developing a special project to document culturally relevant reading material and share them amongst the children of Uganda.
The Pangea Publishing project—winner of GoAbroad’s 2018 Innovation in Philanthropy award—aims to preserve and create tangible, long-lasting stories through gathering Ugandan folklore stories and immortalizing them in illustrated books that will be produced in the local languages, as well as in English. Families are able to ‘subscribe’ to Pangea’s mobile library which will bring them new reading materials once every two weeks.
Pangea publishing was backed by 191 supporters through their Kickstarter campaign which recently ended. They raised enough money to give 300 families in Uganda a year-long subscription to these new reading materials that will be created.
Other ways Pangea spreads cultural literacy
Literature comes in different shapes and forms from fiction and graphic novels, to history books, psychology books, school books, children’s books, and even maternity books. Almost anything a person wants to learn more about can be found through literature. And now Pangea Publishing is expanding this access with meaningful literacy programs such as The Mothers Literacy Program, which provides literacy training to both mothers and children in Uganda.
As beautiful as literature is, storytelling has its own form of magic. Pangea Education encourages storytelling and keeping the folklore alive, and so they created a recurring community-wide event, Sodas and Stories, aimed at creating intergenerational interactions between the elder and the young, with content of stories that can range from folklore fairy tales, to personal real life stories.
Other projects have taken a different kind of approach to promote cultural literacy, and they do it through music. Because where words fail, music speaks. Pangea’s community center in Fort Portal, Kabarole uses music, radio production, and even dance to promote literacy in a meaningful and fresh way.
Literacy is like Mystique, the Marvel character, it can take any form but it has one goal—to teach! We all know the power words can have, especially when they speak directly to our hearts. Literacy and culturally relevant literature are the stepping stones in personal development based on their relatable and empowering nature.
If you believe that everyone should have access to reading materials and educational opportunities, check out all of the incredible work Pangea is doing to support literacy in Uganda.
This blog post was contributed by:
Lucy is an entrepreneur, world traveler and writer by day, and a reader by night. Born and raised in Romania, Lucy lived in 3 different countries and together with her husband traveled to over 20. She strongly believes in personal development, speaks 5 languages (6th is in progress) and is passionate about everything and anything that puts a smile on people’s faces. Through her unique traveling stories, she aims to inspire others to get out of their comfort zone and explore the world.