Project Literacy is a global campaign that is dedicated to building partnerships and driving action that will raise awareness of illiteracy as an urgent issue on the world’s agenda. The campaign and its imagery are designed to be hard-hitting so the images being used are dramatic. Take a look at the video and explore the alphabet here
Sign the petition here urging the UN to put literacy at the heart of every action to advance the Global Goals for Sustainable Development.
The campaign team have put together twenty six reasons why literacy should be central to any political humanitarian agenda, called the Alphabet of Illiteracy. Books Beyond Words are proud to partner with Project Literacy to raise awareness of the campaign and are represented by the letter V for Voiceless.
Not having the ability to read and understand text leaves many people throughout the world without a voice. The voiceless are vulnerable, not receiving the essential information that could enable them to access support, respond to health changes, and understand their rights in society. However, visual literacy - the ability to read pictures - is innate within us all, before we start to decode written words. Affirming and supporting this visual literacy is particularly liberating for the 2% of people with learning disabilities who may never be able to read. Books Beyond Words’ picture books inform and empower, opening the door to literacy and supporting communication, allowing voices to be heard - sometimes for the first time.
In order to give a voice to the ‘voiceless’ one must first learn to listen – and in doing so will be surprised to find there is often a loud voice present. Remaining detached or silent from life’s many challenges is a fate that often befalls people with learning disabilities and communication difficulties. Expressing the complexities of, for example, speaking in public, or even facing your own death, can be towering obstacles for those who find the written and spoken word challenging. It has been Books Beyond Words’ mission to use picture stories to empower and inform people with learning disabilities, and the people who support them. Having difficult or complicated experiences detailed in simple yet richly emotive illustrations allows for all parties to share, listen and engage in safe discussion to gain informed consent, disclosure, or simply calm anxiety.
One of our partners at a therapeutic support service told us the moving story of Gary, a man with learning disabilities who was faced with one of life’s biggest challenges: Gary was terminally ill. Working with his fantastic support team he used several of the Beyond Words books in order to work through each stage of his final journey, eventually gaining the strength to speak with confidence about what he wanted to happen when he died, and how he wanted to be remembered. These books were key milestones in maintaining strong mental health as his physical condition declined.
He began his journey with the book Going to Out-patients to help prepare himself for what was happening when he entered hospital for check-ups and medical procedures. He was able to speak about his anxiety and use the pictures to help understand what was going on. This also gave him the confidence he needed to speak with the health care professionals supporting him and to give consent and raise concerns when needed. The book Getting on with Cancer allowed him to see and discuss what he could expect to experience when facing the illness. It also allowed others in his support network to share their thoughts and open communications in a therapeutic and safe way.
Facing such a finite and unavoidable end is bound to have a profound effect on a person’s mental health. Gary and his supporters read Ron’s Feeling Blue, which gave him a platform to speak about his anger and sadness without feeling guilty. Seeing Ron experiencing depression and low mood and being able to share this with others removed social and personal barriers to give Gary the confidence to express his anxiety and upset with candour. As time passed, his resilience became stronger and when the time approached he moved on to read the book Am I Going to Die? in which the most difficult and moving part of his journey was mirrored. The book enabled Gary, his supporters and his friends to start to cope and plan for his death. Sharing the book and the journey of the character gave him a voice and allowed him to take control and talk confidently about the future with less fear.
When Gary sadly passed away, his supporters and friends (many of whom have learning disabilities) were left with their own grief and confusion. The supporters at the home where Gary had lived used the book When Somebody Dies, which they found cathartic – giving voice to feelings that may have otherwise remained silent.
Case study provided by Jane Williams LD Nurse at Therapeutic Support Services BCUHB