UNESCO Cities of Literature strive to improve literacy every day, in order to improve life outcomes and wellbeing for their communities. As the world continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, some cites have reconfigured their plans for International Literacy Day 2020 so that the network can continue its simultaneous celebrations either face-to-face or in a digital space.

This difficult time magnifies existing literacy issues: many schools, universities, and learning centres are closed and educators and students are facing great challenges. The Cities of Literature are taking this moment to promote the importance of reading for both children and adults, and to highlight the essential work of our partners dedicated to literacy education.

Fourteen Cities of Literature, Bucheon, Dunedin, Edinburgh, Kuhmo, Lillehammer, Manchester, Montevideo, Nanjing, Norwich, Nottingham, Québec City, Seattle, Ulyanovsk, and Wonju have joined together to shine a light on International Literacy Day, each in their own unique way. Celebrations include adult literacy education and community access projects, the ongoing work of libraries and national charities, exhibitions, readings of old and brand-new stories for children, community workshops, tips for creating engaging stories for the young from home, stories shared by young and visually-impaired students, a Tell Me a Story project, and street art with words. Other Cities of Literature are poised ready to share and celebrate these initiatives widely across their own social media platforms.

International Literacy Day will be highlighted in this way across the globe. The Cities of Literature hope to reinforce the importance of reading and writing for healthy communities, and to leverage the power of words in offering unity and strength during these difficult times.

International Literacy Day Bucheon, 2020

About International Literacy Day:

International Literacy Day is on 8 September, and was first declared by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in 1966 to remind the international community of the importance of literacy for individuals, communities and societies, and the need for intensified efforts towards more literate societies.

The issue of literacy is a key component of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Ensuring that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults achieve literacy and numeracy is one of the ten targets for SDG 4: Education.


Lead city, Bucheon, will run an online celebration with a focus on the Adult Literacy Education Center in Bucheon. https://www.facebook.com/BucheonUNESCOCityofLiterature


A successful recent literacy project by Dunedin Public Libraries focusing on community access will be shared: https://www.facebook.com/cityo…


Edinburgh will be celebrating and sharing the work of the Scottish Book Trust, Scotland’s national charity that changes lives through reading and writing. Through initiatives such as their Live Literature Programme, which brings reading and writing to the heart of Scotland’s communities by part-funding author events; Book Week Scotland, an annual celebration of books and reading that takes place across the country; and Bookbug, Scotland’s universal early years book gifting programme that aims to inspire a love of stories, songs and rhymes from birth, the Scottish Book Trust inspires and supports the people of Scotland to read and write for pleasure. https://www.facebook.com/edinburghcityofliterature


Art Night – Mervi Sauer will read some fairy tales for children at the Library of Khumo.


Lillehammer will host a book exhibition in Lillehammer Public Library and an online celebration of International Literacy Day. https://p.lillehammerbibliotek.no/https://www.litteraturbyen.no/


Manchester will offer an online celebration of literacy with a strong focus on Read Manchester, which supports reading and literacy from 0-18 years. https://www.facebook.com/MCRCityofLit;



Since the pandemic, the library in Montevideo has been going out of doors to find its readers, and has launched a series of literary workshops and classes designed to help people to read with a strong focus on disadvantaged readers who have not had the opportunity for formal education.


An online celebration and literary reading for young students and sharing by visually-impaired students will be held in Nanjing on the afternoon of 13 September at the Museum of Jinling Pioneer Primary School with the theme ‘the more you learn, the more you earn’. The event is co-organised by the Nanjing Literature Center and Nanjing Publishing House and reading and literacy promotion performances will be presented by young students and volunteers. https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100012161370542


The National Centre for Writing (NCW), based in Norwich, has produced a short video which gives parents and guardians some simple tips for creating fun and engaging stories with their children aged 0 – 5 years. The video will go live on Tuesday 8 September on the NCW website and across social media channels. It offers a taster of activities found in Norwich’s Neverending Stories pack: a free digital resource designed to help adults with young children to find the space, time and inspiration to create engaging stories together: https://nationalcentreforwriting.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/NES_Pack_Design_Online_web.pdf Video will be embedded on the NES page: https://nationalcentreforwriting.org.uk/neverending-stories/

Article will also be uploaded to the NCW site at 9am BST on 8 September:



Nottingham will offer an online celebration of International Literacy Day:

1. Shazia reading The Cave in English and Hindi (introduction on Facebook, with links to You Tube for the story) https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=286866035873268

2. Viola reading The Crown Monster, which she wrote and illustrated herself


Québec City

The Tell Me a Story project will reach out to parents and caregivers in Québec City, emphasising that they are the first mentors of literacy for children, by making a children’s picture book for all ages and written by an author from Québec City accessible for 24 hours. With the free, printable tool available, it is expected participants will enjoy story time and be encouraged to read more stories to their children and visit the library. https://www.facebook.com/bibliothequedequebec/



Seattle will provide an online celebration of International Literacy Day by highlighting the work of several of the literacy organisations in Seattle. https://www.facebook.com/seattlecityofliterature


Ulyanovsk’s Reading City Project will showcase a series of events in the central street of the city. A literary map of the city and a poetic arch from the lines of the famous poem by Alexander Pushkin will feature. Pushkin himself will walk along the street, accompanied by Ulyanovsk poets. The street art artist Danil Lapshin will paint a wall using the original Simbirsk (the former name of Ulyanovsk) words noted in the famous Vladimir Dal’s Dictionary. http://ulyanovskcreativecity.ru/en/


Wonju will promote reading online with a programme targeted at children of multicultural families and low-income families and run by Wonju City Library. https://www.facebook.com/creativecitiesnetwork

What will the Cities of Literature be doing on International Literacy Day, 8 September 2020?

Follow International Literacy Day activities as they happen on Twitter