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What is Literacy?

Oct. 18 2022

The simplest definition of literacy is the ability to read and write. 

But in a larger sense, literacy means understanding or competency. Today, literacy is often used along with another word. Computer, financial, emotional, and health literacy are some common forms of literacy. When used this way, it describes having working knowledge of a specific topic. Numeracy, or being able to understand and work with numbers, is also a part of the bigger picture of learning.  

At United for Literacy, we believe that everyone can learn, but not everyone has the support and resources they need to succeed. For many people, one of the steps to building literacy skills is gaining confidence. Working with one person—say, a tutor—each week builds trust. When someone shows up and encourages a learner, it helps to build confidence. This is necessary when the work is challenging. 

It’s important to recognize that everyone has some level of literacy. Even if a person is unable to read or write, they have taken in knowledge. Many people who struggle with learning know how to drive, work at a job, take care of kids, and perform daily tasks. Often, people will go to great lengths to hide their inability to read. People are resilient and adaptable. That is why we say we meet people where they are on their learning journey.  

Being able to read and write with confidence makes living in today’s world more comfortable. It also gives people more opportunities and opens doors. Young children who have support as they learn gives them the structure to becoming stronger readers. This sets them up for success as they continue in school and in life.  

Free, accessible programs for adults opens the space to explore new ideas, concepts, and possibilities. This is especially true for people who didn’t have a lot of success with traditional learning or who are new to Canada. Adults with strong reading comprehension can help their kids with homework, find better jobs, and be certain they’re following the directions on a medication label. From there, anything's possible. 

Literacy changes lives. 

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