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Literacy Facts

Adult literacy is measured on a scale of 1 to 5. Level 3 -- equivalent to high school completion -- is the desired threshold for coping with the rapidly changing skill demands of a knowledge-based economy and society. Understanding how literacy is measured allows us to place the issue of adult literacy in context:

  • Four out of 10 adult Canadians, age 16 to 65 -- representing 9 million Canadians -- struggle with low literacy. They fall below level 3 on the prose literacy scale.
  • Considering those adult Canadians with low literacy, 15 percent have serious problems dealing with any printed materials; an additional 27 per-cent can only deal with simple reading tasks.
  • In 2003, about 62% of employed Canadians between the ages of 16 and 65 had average scores in the document domain at Level 3 or above.
  • In 2003, nearly 3.1 million Canadians aged 16 to 65 were at proficiency Level 1 on the prose literacy scale (below middle school skills), while another 5.8 million were at Level 2 (below high school skills).
  • Less than half of those who contact a literacy organization actually enroll in a program and of those who enroll, 30 percent drop out.
  • Less than 10 percent of Canadians who could benefit from literacy upgrading programs actually enroll. Research indicates that barriers like job or money problems, lack of childcare and transportation are some of the reasons that prevent people from enrolling.

We created a factsheet about the impact of literacy and how we work to empower adults, which can be downloaded from here. For more information about literacy and our work, please see the Literacy in the News section.