Land of the Free, Home of the Beaver – Literacy Levels in Canada, Why Should We Care?

Logic would tell us that there is something dreadfully wrong when almost half of the nation does not meet the minimum literacy level. However, the problem goes deeper than one might think. We know that being illiterate can effect job prospects, but consider your daily routine and how often you need to read just to get by. To get an idea, try the simple exercise of keeping track of how many times you use your reading skills in a day; it will give you an idea of just what a necessity being literate is and the impact it would have if you could not.

So what? As long as illiteracy does not cost me money!

When you understand that our literacy levels play a huge role in whether or not our ‘True North’ remains ‘Strong and Free’ you may feel a slight pang of concern. Our entire democratic society depends on an educated, informed electorate.

What are the real costs?

To be perfectly honest it is hard to find a problem in today’s society that is not linked to literacy levels. Here are just a few:

Economics: An educated work force is a must to compete in a global marketplace.
Poverty: There is a direct link between literacy and poverty. Solve the literacy issues and you will go a long way in solving the poverty issues.
Crime: 65% of Canadian Prisoners struggle with literacy skills. Coincidence? I think not!
Consumer behaviour: Activity in the marketplace. Imagine being low tech in a high tech market. If one cannot read, one cannot actively participate and progress in the retail world.
Health: There is a direct correlation between low literacy and unhealthy habits. Simple things we take for granted like understanding directions on a medicine bottle or being unable to understand the medical dangers of certain habits. Imagine being unable to meet the health needs of yourself and your children.
Land of the free and home of the beaver may be in trouble.

The entire concept of democracy depends on the participation of the society’s adults at a level of literacy that is well above the basic. One must be able to not only understand the issues and their potential impact but to be able to evaluate and weight the pros and cons of them without being unduly influenced by them until a decision has been made. In short, literacy is essential to a democratic culture.

Consider making a positive, significant difference to the world and/or to your local literacy initiatives by donating your time, cash or talents!

Lani Donaldson