What does September 8 have in common with Nobel Laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka, the city of Port Harcourt, Rainbow Book Club and the Port Harcourt Book Festival (PHBF)? The answer is simple. Literacy. September 8 is globally recognized as UNESCO International Literacy Day. The Rainbow Book Club, a non-profit organization in Port Harcourt, initiated and submitted the bid that led to the emergence of Port Harcourt as UNESCO World Book Capital 2014. Beginning its year-long tenure on April 23, 2014, a series of youth-oriented programmes are scheduled, including the Port Harcourt Book Festival (former Garden City Literary Festival) which is organized yearly by the Rainbow Book Club in collaboration with the Rivers State Government. Tying it all together, Prof. Soyinka, a recent guest at the Festival, and other writers work with UNESCO to raise public awareness of the value of the written word and a literate society through the Writers for Literacy Initiative.
Initially proclaimed ‘International Literacy Day’ by UNESCO in 1965, September 8 was first officially celebrated in the following year. The day is about celebrating global achievements in literacy rates and adult learning. In Port Harcourt, one organization which has taken strides since 2005 to address the dying reading culture in Nigeria is the Rainbow Book Club, founded by Koko Kalango. It has drawn over 1000 students in over 100 schools across Nigeria through its various literary activities. One of its key events annually is the Port Harcourt Book Festival which attracts participants from Nigeria and beyond. The event will take place from the 21st – 26th October, 2013 with the theme: Literature and the Creative Economy.