International Literacy Day: A Time to Reflect on the Essential Role of Literacy Skills in Canadian Society

September 8th is International Literacy Day, and both the Government of Canada and the Council of Ministers of Education have issued statements on the value of lifelong literacy in Canadian society.

Established by UNESCO in 1965, International Literacy Day aims to raise awareness of the importance of literacy skills in our society. In Canada, literacy is addressed at the federal and provincial levels to ensure that Canadians have the skills that they need to succeed in the labour market and in their home communities.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, more than 48% of Canadian adults lack the literacy skills that they need to cope in society (reading, understanding and functioning effectively with written material).

The Canadian Council on Learning released a new study today to coincide with International Literacy Day. The study, the Future of Literacy in Canada’s Largest Cities, gives projections on adult literacy rates in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa. All cities will see an increase in low literacy skills among adults. The projections demonstrate that by the year 2031, 15 million Canadians will have low literacy skills, a 25% increase from 2001.

Human Resources and Skill Development Canada has identified, through the Essential Skills Research Project, nine essential skills used in every occupation and in daily life. These skills include: Reading Text, Document Use, Numeracy, Writing, Oral Communication, Working With Others, Continuous Learning, Thinking Skills, and Computer Use.

Last year, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada created the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills, which aims to create a centre of expertise for best practices in improving literacy skills for all Canadians.

To mark International Literacy Day, The Council of Ministers of Education has created a resource page on literacy opportunities and training in each province and territory.