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Wednesday, 21 January 2015 14:26

Improving literacy rates would be a win for everyone

Written by  Rose Sanchez
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There are a whole bunch of reasons why literacy is important — one of which is so people will pick up newspapers like ours and find a great deal by perusing an ad or learn about something happening in their community through an article by reporter Matthew Liebenberg or one of our editors.

When one works in an industry like newspapers, it seems silly that every year there has to be one day set aside as Family Literacy Day (which this year is Tuesday, Jan. 27).
In 2015, do we really need to tell people the importance of reading and being literate? Turns out we do.
According to the Canadian Council On Learning (CCL) website, more than 48 per cent of Canadian adults (over the age of 16) “lack the kind of prose literacy skills required to cope in a modern society.” This translates into a difficulty in reading, understanding and functioning effectively with written material.
That is a large number of people who struggle with the written word and understanding its meaning. Despite best efforts to raise awareness about the importance of reading and literacy skills, the number of people with low literacy skills isn’t likely to improve.
In a 2008 report called Reading the Future: Planning to meet Canada’s future literacy needs, CCL officials predict that due to population growth, an aging population and immigration rates, little to no progress will be made on improving literacy rates in the next two decades. That report predicts by 2031, about 47 per cent of adults will have “low prose literary skills”.
The Toronto Dominion Report — Literacy Matters, undertaken in 2007, showed that “four in 10 high-school youth have insufficient reading skills. Two in 10 university graduates, five in 10 adults and six in 10 immigrants also have insufficient literacy skills ...”
Recognizing one day a year to make an effort to read together as families is important, but more needs to continue to be done if we want literacy rates to improve.
Funding for literacy initiatives is important. According to the Canadian Literacy and Learning Network (CCLN) website, an investment in literacy programming has a 241 per cent return on investment. Those are good odds.
When people have improved literacy skills they are more independent and able to get better-paying jobs. That in turn is good for the economy. CCLN states “a one per cent increase in the literacy rate would generate $18 billion in economic growth every year.”
One of the best places to instill a love and importance of reading is in our children and parents would be wise to remember, it isn’t always all about reading a work of fiction or a book. Literacy is about reading a recipe to make something new for supper, looking at a map when planning out a family vacation or finding the healthiest foods to consume when shopping in a grocery store. Modelling good literacy behaviours and habits for young people, will go a long way toward changing these alarming trends, and raising a generation of highly-literate individuals. Everyone is a winner in this scenario.
Rose Sanchez is assistant managing editor with the Prairie Post. Contact her with your comments about this opinion piece at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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