Is Canada As Literate As It Seems?

When you think of Canada, what comes to your mind? Whether it’s students in classrooms, people hustling to work, or wealthy families, they all point to one fact: Canada has a high percentage of literate, well-educated, and successful people.

Compared to developing countries, Canada seems to be doing well, but exactly how high is their literacy rate?

What is Literacy?

The simplest and most traditional definition of literacy is the ability to write and read articles in a newspaper, magazine, or encyclopedia (around the grade 11 level). With this definition, the literacy rate of Canada is 99%.

However, the definition of literacy has evolved to become more expansive. At the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) meeting in 2003, the meaning of literacy was redefined. It was explained as

This shows that the definition of literacy is far greater than just reading and writing, it extends to comprehending text and doing mathematical calculations.

Benefits of Literacy

Literacy plays an important role to have success in our society. Literate people are more successful in post-secondary, which leads to finding better employment, leading to a higher income. It is estimated that each year of education is worth an 8% increase in salary, as literacy was the biggest factor when comparing salary differences. Literacy also affects productivity: if Canada’s literacy rate (compared to other countries) increases by 1%, the productivity rate will increase by 2.5%. This increase in productivity is equivalent to a $32 billion increase in Canada’s national income. Other advantages to being literate include more engagement with the community and better health. Literacy helps us prepare for tomorrow’s economy, which is projected to be partially based on knowledge, which is found through reading.

Literacy Rates

The data in the graph above shows the majority of university graduates and youth have adequate literacy, while less than half of the adults and immigrants have adequate literacy. Of this literacy rate, there is a clear difference between the west and east sides of Canada. The western provinces and territories had a literacy rate above Canada’s average, the eastern below, and the central were around the average.


After all this research, is Canada really as literate as it seems? No, Canada is not. The percentage of the population with adequate literacy is not very high, averaging only 57.5%.

How to Improve the Literacy Rate

The literacy rate is not a fixed number, we can help improve it! Literacy could be more focused on in schools, or programs can be made to help those with lower literacy skills such as francophones, Aboriginals, and immigrants. Talking verbally instead of texting is one way that people can practice and improve their literacy. Parents can encourage their children to read more, and teachers can incorporate vocabulary lessons into their teaching. Libraries and museums should be explored to increase the knowledge of the public. Math can be used in our daily lives by creating budgets, totaling costs, or finding unit costs when going to the grocery store.

Now that you know how to improve the literacy rate, why not start?

Works Cited

Written by,

Alexandra Chow

Published by livesforliteracy

A non-profit organization on a mission to ensure that youth everywhere have the opportunity to acquire literacy skills that help them reach their full potential academically and economically.

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