Richard Branson backs global literacy campaign

Branson signs Project Literacy petition, raising awareness of the 757m people who can’t read, write or sign their name

Richard Branson has signed the largest petition ever committed to raising awareness of the global challenge of illiteracy. The petition is part of ‘Project Literacy’, a movement convened by Pearson that aims to make significant and sustainable advances in the fight against illiteracy across the world.

On signing the petition, Richard Branson said: “Illiteracy is a much ignored global issue, which impacts billions of people across the world. It is largely invisible but its impact is devastating. If you see inequality and poverty, you’re seeing the impact of illiteracy.

“I’m proud to sign the Project Literacy petition today to ask the world’s leaders to recognise the urgency of the illiteracy crisis and pledge to take meaningful action to address it.”

The campaign is asking people all over the world to sign their name for those who can’t read or write. The ultimate goal is to push illiteracy up the global agenda, challenging world leaders to tackle the issue head on and put literacy at the heart of policy decisions, public debates and conversations.

Richard Branson & Rod Bristow, President of Pearson UK, sign the world's largest petition, on behalf of the 757m people who can't read or sign their name (Owen Billcliffe photography)

Richard Branson & Rod Bristow, President of Pearson UK, sign the world's largest petition, on behalf of the 757m people who can't read or sign their name (Owen Billcliffe photography)

Branson signed the petition at the recent Virgin Disruptors event on the Future of Education, supported by Pearson. The event came a week after the petition was carried to the United Nations Headquarters in New York, where 193 global leaders attended the UN General Assembly, asking them to acknowledge the urgency of the international illiteracy crisis, its impact on many of the world’s biggest challenges and pledge to take meaningful action to address it.

Rod Bristow, President of Pearson UK, said: “Project Literacy has one clear goal: to raise awareness of and tackle the global problem of illiteracy, which affects one in ten people alive today and affects every country on Earth. We are excited that Richard Branson has today joined our cause and signed the petition.”

Branson signing the Project Literacy petition (Owen Billcliffe photography)

Branson signing the Project Literacy petition (Owen Billcliffe photography)

To help give the 757 million people across the world a voice, please sign the petition, which can be found at projectliteracy.com/petition.

Illiteracy: The statistics:

  • No country has ever achieved continued economic growth without having first achieved an adult literacy rate above 40%.
  • Illiteracy costs a developed nation 2% of its GDP p/a and an emerging economy 1.2% of GDP.
  • 32m adults in the USA can’t read. And one in four children grow up without learning how to read.
  • More than 70% of inmates in American prisons cannot read above fourth grade level (typically 9-10 years old).
  • 1 in 5 UK children leave primary school unable to read or write.
    In sub-Saharan Africa, the number of illiterate adults has increased by 37% since 1990.
  • In India, 287 million people do not have basic reading skills.
  • The rate of violent crimes such as homicide, sexual assaults and robbery are almost double among the illiterate population.
  • Today 520 million women and girls are illiterate, denying them access to learn, earn, vote and thrive.

People and organisations wanting to help bring the power of words to the world can join the movement in many ways, from signing the petition to volunteering or donating to any of the organisations involved with the campaign, outlined below.