According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the definition of "literacy" is "The quality, condition, or state of being literate; the ability to read and write. Also: the extent of this in a given community, region, period, etc."
...but it's more than that, in the eyes of UNESCO.
Literacy is a human right, a tool of personal empowerment and a means for social and human development. Educational opportunities depend on literacy.
Literacy is at the heart of basic education for all, and essential for eradicating poverty, reducing child mortality, curbing population growth, achieving gender equality and ensuring sustainable development, peace and democracy. (unesco.org)
Lastly, in honor of International Literacy Day, check out this infographic about America's Libraries and how they support literacy nationwide (created by the clever folks at H&R Block). Did you know there are more libraries in America than there are McDonald's restaurants? Check out more interesting facts below: