To mark International Literacy Day, the classic children’s character ‘Chicken Little’ is going on a new adventure, with a twist – his story has been re-written by a mother who has spent the last year learning to read and write.

Featuring a foreword from actor and activist, Idris Elba, the new book is written by Wanda Steward from Philadelphia, PA, in partnership with Project Literacy, a global campaign founded by learning company Pearson and made up of over 100 organisations dedicated to ending illiteracy by 2030.

“The Little Chicken Named Pong-Pong” is Wanda’s own original interpretation of the classic fable “Chicken Little”. Illiterate in her early motherhood, Wanda struggled to read bedtime stories to her children when they were young; using her imagination, she made up her own tales to match the illustrations and created a recurring character called “Pong-Pong the Brave”.

Project Literacy partnered with Wanda to take illustrations of Chicken Little, and create a story that is entirely new and her own – to help raise awareness of adult illiteracy, which impacts 32 million Americans today. The new book will be available free online and will even be stocked in Wanda’s local library.

Idris Elba is helping to take Wanda’s story from her imagination to a global audience through contributing a foreword to the book and has filmed a heartfelt bedtime story reading that parents and children alike can enjoy.

“Story time has always been one of the most magical and treasured parts of the day for me to connect with my children, but it’s something that millions of parents across the US who struggle with their reading are missing out on. However, more alarmingly, it means tasks most people take for granted become impossible, from not being able to read the label on a medicine bottle to not being able to vote,” said Idris Elba, a Project Literacy Ambassador. “Sadly, this is an issue that is passed on from generation to generation, a cycle that we want to break. Through sharing Wanda’s inspiring journey, we want to help others understand the importance of investing in adult literacy, which is why we’re encouraging as many people as possible to support us by reading Wanda’s story.”

“By re-writing this story, we want to help rewrite the lives of so many adults who struggle with reading and writing and de-stigmatise the issue of illiteracy through increased awareness,” said Kate James, Project Literacy spokesperson and Chief Corporate Affairs and Global Marketing officer at Pearson.

“Children whose parents have low literacy levels have a 72% chance of being at the lowest reading levels themselves. Globally, funding for literacy programmes is skewed more heavily towards children in primary and secondary school, rather than youth or adult literacy yet we know that there’s no way for us to break the cycle of intergenerational illiteracy if we don’t focus on parents. We need to tackle all levels if we’re to close the global literacy gap in the next decade,” James continued.

For every book downloaded, Pearson will donate $1 to Project Literacy partners who are helping adults learn to read and write. To learn more about how to help break the cycle of illiteracy, click here.

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