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Federal Budget 2023: National Literacy Strategy

Mar. 02 2023


ABC Life Literacy Canada, the Canadian Children's Literacy Foundation, and United for Literacy are national literacy organizations.

We work together with over 500 partners each year to provide innovative literacy, numeracy, and foundational skills support for under-represented groups in Canada.

Our programs reach nearly 30,000 children, youth, and adults in over 200 communities each year. These programs are free, high-impact, adaptable, and are delivered by community hubs and networks across the country.

Canadians, and Canada’s economy, need us to invest in both the skills of adults with low literacy and in the early literacy skills of all young children.

Literacy skills are crucial during tumultuous times like today. They allow us to separate fact from fiction, share critical information, make informed decisions, and work differently.

Yet a recent OECD study found that 49% of working-age Canadians have literacy scores below Level 3—the level needed to succeed in a 21st-century knowledge-based economy like Canada’s. A further 17% of working-age Canadians have scores of Level 0-1. Indigenous people are particularly affected by low literacy skills: one Canadian study found that an estimated 60% lacked the literacy skills that the labour market requires. These low foundational skills are a barrier to education and training opportunities. They also correlate with other issues, such as poverty, housing instability , poor health , and justice involvement.

We commend the Government of Canada’s recent investments in the Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care (ELCC) system and the Skills for Success framework: these initiatives will contribute to a better today and tomorrow.

We urge the Government of Canada to build on that landmark work by establishing a national literacy policy. This new investment in strategic and coordinated planning will both improve the low literacy skills of Canadian adults, and will ensure that children are set up to achieve high literacy levels in school. It will focus on reversing Canada’s literacy level decline, and will account for and address the unique needs of learners who need it most:
those from under-represented and low-income communities in urban, rural, and remote locations.

Canadians and employers stand with us. Research data shows that not only does increased investment in literacy benefit employers, but that it is a priority for Canadians.

A 2017 Environics public opinion poll confirmed that 87% of Canadians agree that more should be done to improve literacy rates in Canada.

Read our recommendations in advance of the 2023 Federal Budget.
National Literacy Strategy report cover
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