Illiteracy problems are worldwide, and growing. Political and economic factors are often in conflict over which language to use for basic education and how it should be taught. There is increasing pressure on the resources available for using literacy in coping with the rapid populationincrease, the spread of disease, and poor development. The editors and contributors to this volume are members of The International Group for the Study of Language Standardization and the Vernacularization of Literacy (IGLSVL), with unrivalled direct personal experience of literacy and language problems in the second half of the twentieth century. Thecontributors take the UNESCO publication, The Use of Vernacular Languages in Education, as their starting point. Published in 1953, this work was optimistic about the future of literacy. The contributors assess the nature and significance of the events that have taken place since then, providing aglobal overview. The discussions are supported by case-studies of campaigns to promote vernacular languages and examples of how people relate to their languages in different cultures. Most importantly, they question traditional notions of, and provide a non-Western perspective on, the uses and valueof literacy.