What is Literacy?

Literacy is using written information to function in society, to achieve one's goals and to develop one's knowledge and potential.

(from ABC Canada, "International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey (IALSS) Report Summary", November, 2005)

Some Facts about Literacy:

A person's literacy skills are no longer seen as "literate" or "not-literate". The focus now is on how well adults can use written information to function in society, to achieve their goals and to develop their knowledge and potential.

Everyone has some level of literacy skill.

Only a minority of people with weak literacy skills recognize that they need to improve their levels. Forty eight percent (48%) of adult Canadians have some difficulty with the reading and writing skills needed in daily life.

  • About 20% of adult Canadians 16 years and over fall into the lowest level of literacy. They have serious difficulty dealing with printed materials and most likely identify themselves as people who have difficulties reading.
  • Another 28% of adult Canadians fall into the second lowest level. Such people can deal only with material that is simple and clearly laid out, and material in which the tasks involved are not too complex. They read, but not well.

This information is drawn from the 1996 "International Adult Literacy Survey Report Reading the Future - A Portrait of Literacy in Canada" with statistics updated from the 2005 "International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey (IALSS)"

For more information see: