Luv or h8 it, txting is gr8 4 literacy

Today, 8 September, is International Literacy Day – the day the world’s attention is focused on literacy as one of the fundamental human rights, and the foundation of all learning. In the words of UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova, “Education brings sustainability to all the development goals, and literacy is the foundation of all learning. It provides individuals with the skills to understand the world and shape it, to participate in democratic processes and have a voice, and also to strengthen their cultural identity.”

In the information age, literacy is a more critical basic requirement than ever. The literacy landscape is also rapidly changing – children’s reading and writing experience is changing from a paper-based to a digital context. Many kids’ primary exposure to the written word is through texting – SMS, instant messaging and Twitter – thanks to the global proliferation of mobile phones and internet connectivity.

Texting teens may have a literacy edge over their non-texting peers.
(© All Rights Reserved)

Texting has long been blamed for being one of the main causes of decreasing linguistic savvy among children and teenagers, with parents and teachers fearing that texting shorthand (incorporating linguistic shortcuts, weak grammar and little or no punctuation) was destroying their ability to write ‘properly’.

While it’s true that these teenage ‘textisms’ drive most people over thirty up the proverbial wall, it may in fact not be quite the scourge it was thought to be at the turn of the century. New research is showing that, while it may not promote perfect grammar, text messaging may in fact have a positive impact on basic literacy. For one thing, there is no arguing that it is increasing young people’s level of interaction with the written word. Instead of speaking, kids are very likely to communicate via text messages, even when they are in the same physical location.

As reported in an article in the Telegraph, researchers are suggesting that using a mobile phone can boost children’s spelling abilities. In a research project at Coventry University in the UK, 114 children aged 9-10, who were not already mobile phone users, were split into two groups. Half were given handsets and encouraged to text often, while the control group remained without mobile phones. After 10 weeks, both groups were subjected to a series of reading, spelling and phonological awareness tests, and the researchers claimed they found that texting made a significant positive contribution to to children’s spelling development during the study. According to Professor Clare Wood of the university’s Psychology Department, they also found “no evidence that children’s language play when using mobile phones is damaging literacy development.”

Similar sentiments have been expressed by Professor David Crystal, honorary professor of linguistics at Bangor University, who says it’s an urban myth that text speech are taking over childrens’ regular writing. He considers it “merely another way to use language”, and suggests that the use of textisms and shortcuts is exaggerated: “If you collected a huge pile of messages and counted all the whole words and the abbreviations, the fact of the matter is that less than 10% would be shortened.”

So, while language may be changing in the age of texting, the undeniably positive part is that it is exposing children to the written word, in both the traditional and the abbreviated sense.

And that, as they say in the classics, is gr8 4 literacy.

World Refugee Day

Today is World Refugee day. The aim of this day is to create awareness of the plight of forcibly displaced people throughout the world. It is also an opportunity to honor the courage, strength and determination of people forced to flee their homes under threat of persecution, conflict and violence, and to recognize the contribution these refugees are making in their adopted environments.

Each year, hudreds of thousands of people are forced to flee their countries for survival.
(© All Rights Reserved)

In 2011, a record 800 000 people were forced to flee their homes and cross borders for survival. Worldwide, almost 44 million people are currently classed as refugees. It does not take a degree in mathematics to recognise that this is a shockingly high number – more than 0.5% of the world population. Of these, almost 80% are women and children.

People who become refugees are often forced to remain in refugee status for many years, often living in refugee camps or other temporary environments. The UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, provides tents, shelter, supplies and life-saving services to refugees.

There are many things each of us can do to assist these humanitarian efforts. The most obvious and direct contribution is donating money or volunteering services via the UNHCR website. Alternatively, helping to organise local fund raising events in your community, or even just raising awareness either through physical events or online initiatives and social networking activities.

Refugees have no choice. You do.

World Day Against Child Labour

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the World Day Against Child Labour, sanctioned by the International Labour Organisation’s International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (ILO-IPEC).  Each year on 12 June, governments, organisations, companies and individuals the world over need to unite to highlight the plight of child labourers.

Child labour is a massive global problem – latest estimates show that about 215 million children (127 million boys and 88 million girls) are involved in child labour, with more than half involved in its worst forms.  These children do not have the opportunity to go to school, let alone the luxury of carefree play.  The are often undernourished and not properly cared for.  More than half work in hazardous environments and are exposed to inhuman experiences – slavery and forced labour, illicit activities including drug trafficking and prostitution, as well as involvement in armed conflict.

In a nutshell, these children are denied their chance to be children, to play, to discover, to learn, to be care free. Instead they are exposed to physical, psychological or moral suffering that can cause long term damage in their lives.

Not having the opportunity to gain an education and acquire marketable skills means they are never prepared to meaningfully contribute as adults, thus denying them the opportunity to lift themselves and their families out of the cycle of poverty.

The main responsibilities associated with childhood should be to play, to discover, to learn, to be care free.
(© All Rights Reserved)

Looking on the positive side – the situation is improving and it appears a future without child labour is at last within reach..

As part of a Roadmap towards the eradication of child labour, adopted at the 2010 Global Child Labour Conference, the ILO’s member states have set the target for eliminating the Worst Forms of Child Labour by 2016. Significant progress is being made worldwide in combating child labour. The latest global trends reinforce this message of hope – child labour is declining, with the worst forms declining at the fastest rate.

There is, however, no room for complacency and sustained global effort is needed to keep the momentum going towards the elimination of child labour.

Find out what is happening in your country, join a local or online initiative, and contribute your one hour against child labour.

To quote ILO Director-General Juan Somavia:

“There is no room for complacency when 215 million children are still labouring to survive and more than half of these are exposed to the worst forms of child labour, including slavery and involvement in armed conflict. We cannot allow the eradication of child labour to slip down the development agenda — all countries should be striving to achieve this target, individually and collectively”

International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression

Today is International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression – a stark reminder and acknowledgement of the pain suffered by children throughout the world who are the victims of physical, mental and emotional abuse.

(© All Rights Reserved)

This day also celebrates the millions of individuals and organisations around the world, working to protect, preserve and promote the rights of children.

The ”Say Yes for Children” campaign, endorsed by almost 100 million people (from Nelson Mandela and Bill Gates to everyday people across the globe), identifies 10 positive actions to be taken to improve the lives of children:

1. Leave No Child Out
All forms of discrimination and exclusion against children must end.

2. Put Children First 
It is the responsibility of everyone – governments, individuals, non-governmental organisations, religious groups, the private sector and children and adolescents themselves – to ensure that children’s rights are respected.

3. Care for Every Child 
Ensure all children the best possible start in life.

4. Fight HIV/AIDS 
Protect children and adolescents and their families.

5. Stop Harming and Exploiting Children 
Violence and abuse must be stopped now. And the sexual and economic exploitation of children must end.

6. Listen to Children 
Respect the rights of children and young people to express themselves and to participate in making the decisions that affect them.

7. Educate Every Child 
Every child – all girls and boys – must be allowed to learn.

8. Protect Children from War 
No child should experience the horrors of armed conflict.

9. Protect the Earth for Children 
Safeguard the environment at global, national and local levels.

10. Fight Poverty
Invest in Children Invest in services that benefit the poorest children and their families, such as basic health care and primary education. Make the well-being of children a priority objective of debt relief programmes, development assistance and government spending.

[Quoted from the Unicef Say Yes for Children website.]