“My parents are farmers. They don’t know how to read and write,” said 10-year-old Thinley Pelzom, from rural Bhutan. Growing up in this remote Himalayan Kingdom, access to education is limited for villagers like her: 36% of public schools are not accessible by road, and around half of Bhutanese adults are illiterate.
Thinley is part of a global challenge that many people don’t realize exists: 773.5 million adults are still illiterate worldwide. That’s roughly equivalent to the entire population of Europe (east and west combined). What’s more, 17% of children in the developing world will not enroll in primary school, which means that they need another way to get an education.
Watch this video to learn how READ Global is working to end illiteracy in rural Asia:
Access to information has historically been extremely challenging in Bhutan. There was only one public library in the country before READ established its first Center there in 2008. One in four people lives in poverty and has to walk four hours to get to the nearest all-weather road.
Thinley grew up unable to read at the same level as her peers. In 2008, READ built a Center in Thinley’s village of Ura, in Bumthang District. Through the Center, she has become an avid reader and caught up to her peers’ reading level. Today, she is one of the “Junior Friends of the Library”, a group of children that helps the library organize and conduct activities for children their age. Thinley helps her friends and younger children learn to read.
Today, Thinley has a dream: When she grows up, she wants to be a teacher.
Despite the progress Bhutan has made towards literacy, 53% of people living in South Asia remain illiterate, and a majority live in rural areas that lack access to information and educational resources.