At IRA's 55th Annual Convention, Queen Rania talks about cross-cultural literacy

April 26, 2010

(Office of Her Majesty- Press Department- Chicago) Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah opened, today, the International Reading Association’s (IRA) 55th Annual Convention by championing global literacy, both as a means to lift the lives of impoverished communities, and as a way to overcome intolerance and mistrust between countries.

During her speech, attended by literacy professionals, teachers, librarians, academics, publishers, students, and book-clubs organizers, Queen Rania told the story of Gcina Mphole, a woman she met in South Africa.

Inspired by her aunt, who realized the value of words, but died before learning to read or write, Gcina was determined to help children in South Africa defeat illiteracy. So, she raised money, and started carrying suitcases filled with books to rural villages, as she believed that literacy is " luggage for life."

"I agree", Her Majesty added, "and I know all of you do too. So do the nearly 760 million illiterate men and women around the world. Because being able to read and write is more than spelling your name or reading a road sign…Literacy lifts lives."

"It fills in application forms; gets well-paid jobs, and can be a path out of poverty. Literacy accesses the internet; teaches hygiene, and wards off disease… And literacy enriches; it can help us appreciate other people and other cultures." Queen Rania noted.

Her Majesty then called the audience's attention to another kind of illiteracy the world has been suffering from for ages, " It seems that while we’re making strides in combating illiteracy around the world, thanks to the efforts of people like you, when it comes to cross-cultural literacy, we’re all still stumbling over the a,b,c’s… struggling to grasp the language of diplomacy, dialogue, and discovery. "

Referring to a recent Gallup poll about the East-West relations, Her Majesty said that more than 4 in 10 Americans (43%) admit to feeling at least a little prejudice towards Muslims. And nearly one-third of Americans say their opinion of Islam is "not favorable at all", and that two thirds of Americans have either “very little knowledge” or “none at all” about Islam."

" But amongst people who actually knew a Muslim, misconceptions melted away", the Queen said.

Dedicated to finding common ground between East and West, Queen Rania urged the audience to " reach out to people who we’ve perhaps shied away from in the past."

Talking about her recently written book, "The Sandwich Swap", Her Majesty explained how she was inspired by a childhood experience, that taught her to stop fearing and second guessing diversity, and start appreciating the cultural differences that enrich our lives.

Queen Rania also explained the key role schools can play to instill the values of compassion and understanding in children, " Teachers here are fostering tomorrow’s global citizens, nurturing future leaders, influencing how tolerant, open-minded, and knowledgeable the next generation can be."

"Because the more we open our children’s minds, the more secure our future will be." Her Majesty told the audience.

Concluding her speech, Queen Rania called for everybody's efforts to combat intolerance , " Let’s strive to overcome cross-cultural illiteracy once and for all. And let’s promise that, whatever our destination, when we open our suitcases, we’ll unpack compassion, forgiveness, knowledge, and respect…and begin a new journey together."

Also during the convention, Her Majesty participated in a Q&A session, where she answered questions about her book, "The Sandwich Swap", a children’s picture book form Disney Book Group, co-authored with Kelly DiPucchio. All Her Majesty's proceedings from the book will go to Madrasati Jordan.

Queen Rania also talked about 1GOAL, an education campaign that she cofounded with the Global Campaign for Education and FIFA to get 72 million children into school.

Since 1956, IRA has been a nonprofit, global network of individuals and institutions committed to worldwide literacy. More than 70,000 members strong, the Association supports literacy professionals through a wide range of resources, advocacy efforts, volunteerism, and professional development activities. It promotes high levels of literacy for all by improving the quality of reading instruction, disseminating research and information about reading and encouraging the lifetime reading habit

For more information about the International Reading Association 55th Annual Convention, please visit: www.iraconvention.org