A Bedouin couple enjoys reading in Manah, Oman. About 87% of men in Oman are literate—they can read, write, and do basic math. About 74% of Omani women are literate.

Photograph by James L. Stanfield, National Geographic

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    On September 8, 1965, the United Nations first recognized International Literacy Day. Literacy is usually defined as having basic reading, writing, and math skills. According to the UN, “[l]iteracy is a right and a foundation for lifelong learning, better well-being, and livelihoods.”
    Literacy can be limited by restricted access to education. Literacy rates are often lower in the developing world than in developed nations. In many areas, girls do not attend schools as regularly as boys, and literacy rates for girls are lower.
    The idea of literacy is expanding. In fact, the UN sometimes talks about “literacies,” such as historical literacy, economic literacy, technological literacy, and cultural literacy.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    access Noun

    ability to use.

    culture Noun

    learned behavior of people, including their languages, belief systems, social structures, institutions, and material goods.

    developing world Noun

    nations with low per-capita income, little infrastructure, and a small middle class.

    disease Noun

    harmful condition of a body part or organ.

    economic Adjective

    having to do with money.

    health Noun

    condition of an organism's body and mind.

    justice Noun

    administration of law.

    literacy Noun

    ability to read and write.

    literacy rate Noun

    percentage of a population able to read and write.

    livelihood Noun

    ability to economically support oneself.

    medicine Noun

    substance used for treating illness or disease.

    nation Noun

    political unit made of people who share a common territory.

    Encyclopedic Entry: nation
    quality Noun

    characteristic or feature.

    quantity Noun


    recognize Verb

    to identify or acknowledge.

    restrict Verb

    to limit.

    right Noun

    specific freedom or opportunity granted to an individual or organization based on the law.

    technology Noun

    the science of using tools and complex machines to make human life easier or more profitable.

    United Nations Noun

    international organization that works for peace, security and cooperation.