Willpower beats age: Literacy success stories

Willpower beats age: Literacy success stories
Wrinkled hands of a senior woman are holding a book- Shutterstock

Over the past few years, the rapidly shifting modern world has impeded the advancement of literacy among world regions, countries, and populations. It has become a basic need for each and every individual to read and write in the era of artificial intelligence. 

Since 1967, there have been annual celebrations of International Literacy Day (ILD) to raise awareness of the value of literacy as a matter of human dignity and rights and to advance the literacy agenda in the direction of a more literate and sustainable society. Despite steady progress made worldwide, literacy challenges still exist, with at least 763 million children and adults lacking basic literacy skills in 2020.

The percentage of 10-year-old children in low- and middle-income nations who are unable to read and comprehend a simple paragraph with understanding has risen from 57% in 2019 to a projected 70% in 2022. 

“Promoting literacy for a world in transition: Building the basis for sustainable and peaceful communities” is the topic of this year's International Literacy Day celebrations held all across the world. 

ILD2023 will be commemorated globally, regionally, nationally, and locally under this theme. On Friday, September 8, a conference will be held both physically and virtually in Paris, France. The UNESCO International Literacy Prizes ceremony, which will reveal this year's outstanding prizewinning projects, will be a part of this worldwide celebration. 

There are many inspiring literacy success stories of people who have developed the ability to read and write as adults or seniors. 



Literacy Together tells the story of Ariella and her tutor. Ariella could not read or write when she immigrated to the United States in her fifties. She knew that she had dyslexia since she was a child, but she was quite concerned about adjusting to life in America without reading and writing skills. Her daughter discovered Literacy Together, a leading adult literacy organization, and got her an appointment.

For four years, Ariella has been working with Penny, her tutor. They are committed to each other as well as to the challenging task of developing literacy skills while living with dyslexia. But after persistence, commitment, and hard work, Ariella is now proud to be able to pick up a book and read it, despite the difficulty she still faces in doing so. 


Zubaida Abdelal

Zubaida Abdelal, an 87-year-old Egyptian grandmother, achieved her dream and passed the literacy test. She had always wanted to read and write. 

Al Arabiya reported that Abdelal, who belongs to Qena Governorate in Upper Egypt, insisted on educating her eight children and three sisters after the death of her father, who considered that education was not required for females. 

Abdelal joined the “No Illiteracy with solidarity” initiative implemented by the Ministry of Social Solidarity. She did not inform her children of this step so that they would not prevent her from obtaining an education, given her old age. 


Abdullah Aboul Gheit

Egyptian Abdullah Aboul Gheit lived for half a century without knowing how to read or write. He explained that he concentered on literacy when he suffered a health crisis, as he spent time listening to the Quran, and his heart became attached to it. He then decided to learn to read and write in order to read and memorize the Holy Quran, according to Youm7. 

Aboul Gheit added that after his recovery, he learned to write in order to transcribe the Holy Quran to make it easier for himself to memorize. After completing the first copy, he decided to devote his life to copying the Quran. He copied it in the Uthmanic script three times, and in English once.