An international organization wants to spread awareness about illiteracy in the world and recently brought World Read Aloud Day to Ahwatukee Foothills for the first time.

World Read Aloud Day, sponsored by an organization called LitWorld, this year saw over one million people worldwide participate in the event that encourages reading and brings awareness about the approximately 793 million illiterate people in the world.

For the first time in Ahwatukee Foothills, parents visited their children at Children of Hope Child Development Center, 2601 E. Thunderhill Place, on Wednesday, March 7.

“The parents came in, we did book swap as well, and they just enjoyed the moment with a new book with their children,” said Debbie Lera, parent and executive director of LitLife, parent organization of LitWorld. “The broader scale of it was, it’s about taking action to show the world and bring awareness to reading and writing to everyone who wants it.”

In 2010, the first year of World Read Aloud Day, over 40,000 people participated in 35 countries. Last week, the one million people came from 70 countries.

What has helped turned the event into such a success, Lera, who is an Ahwatukee Foothills resident, is the advance of technology. Part of this year’s program involved classrooms in different parts of the world reading together through the use of a video conference equipment that allowed them to interact over the internet.

“It allows students in Africa to work with students in the US so they can listen to a book read aloud and chat together about it,” Lera said. “World Read Aloud Day has gotten to be a global phenomenon in three years.”

The marquee event took place in Times Square in New York City on Wednesday when over 900 student descended upon the landmark and participated in different activities throughout the day.

“It sort of brings everyone together,” she said. “We are acknowledging that technology is helping to bring awareness to the powers at be that help is needed. We support the future and literacy has the opportunity to change the world for these children (who are illiterate).”

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