When my daughter was younger, each night as I put her to bed, I read her a story. Some of our favorites included Make Way for DucklingsPing, and Ferdinand the Bull. Now that she is older and reading on her own, her appetite for books has become voracious.  Evenings find our family’s noses buried in books strewn about the house. When, like many Americans, I think about how reading and literacy has impacted my life, I also think about my love of reading outside of school – my favorite books as a small kid, my mom walking us to the library over the summer, and rereading my all-time favorites so often that they became worn-out friends on my nightstand.

A young student in Turkmenistan learns new vocabulary. Photo Credit: USAID Quality Learning Project

USAID wants to spark the love of  reading throughout Central Asia, and foster it throughout families everywhere.

Over the last 5-10 years, growing evidence indicates that literacy levels in Central Asia are declining. As one Ministry of Education’s national strategy frankly and astutely points out, the level of education of older generations is higher than that of its youth, in part due to declining budgets and major reorganizations after the collapse of the Soviet Union. USAID anticipates continuing to work with Ministries of Education and international partners in Central Asia to improve children’s reading abilities, by fine-tuning educators’ reading instruction skills, involving communities, and increasing the use of local language reading materials. How can a family create a culture of reading at home amid a major shortage of books currently published in local languages? This is the type of change we are working on together.

Literacy is a cornerstone of a developed society, and a well-educated population is paramount to a developed nation. I hope that my daughter grows up in a world where everyone makes reading a part of family life, has access to an abundance of reading material, and has the time to learn to read “just for fun.”