Thousands of British Columbians do not possess the literacy skills needed to succeed, impacting everything from healthcare to employment.
In BC, 40 per cent of adults have difficulty reading a newspaper, filling out a work application form, reading a bus schedule, or understanding a lease and close to 50 per cent of adults do not have the skills necessary to calculate a tip, create a budget or understand credit card interest rates.
Even more concerning is the fact that almost four in 10 youths aged 15 have insufficient reading skills and 16 per cent of BC youths are not graduating from high school. These statistics have serious implications on society, as literacy rates impact every aspect of our lives: healthcare, education, crime rates, employment and economic status.
This month, Black Press and the Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy are joining forces to raise funds and awareness about the importance of literacy with the fourth annual Reach a Reader campaign. The campaign will culminate with community leaders and volunteers hitting the streets across the Columbia Basin and Boundary to distribute special editions of local papers and collect donations in support of community-based literacy programs.
The Reach a Reader campaign coincides with Decoda Literacy Solutions’ inaugural Literacy is Life Campaign; a province-wide fundraising and awareness campaign designed to create a new, modern understanding of literacy and raise funds to ensure that community-based literacy programs across British Columbia can support the people who depend on them.
Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy executive director Ali Wassing says “We have been gratified to see the high level of support and enthusiasm for our annual partnership with Black Press on the Reach a Reader campaign. This fall, in tandem with the launch of Decoda’s Literacy is Life provincial campaign and the hugely successful Raise-a-Reader campaign in the Lower Mainland we look forward to a banner year for literacy.”
Importance of literacy
Literacy Matters for the Economy:
A one per cent increase in literacy levels would raise Canada’s productivity by 2.5 per cent, or an estimated $32 billion boost to our annual GDP.
Literacy Matters for Health:
Thirty per cent of those with high literacy say they have excellent health, compared to 19 per cent of those with low literacy. Researchers estimate that three to five per cent of total health care costs are due to limited understanding about health information. This translates into $680 million each year in BC.
Literacy Matters for Seniors:
Literacy skills may decline with age due to health problems and lack of use. Over 70 per cent of seniors have low literacy. Seniors with low literacy may have problems filling out pension forms or understanding medical information.
Literacy Matters for Immigration:
By 2030, immigration is expected to provide 100 per cent of new labour force growth. 60 per cent of immigrants with a first language other than English have literacy levels below a high-school graduate. Over one quarter of BC’s population was born outside of Canada.
Literacy Matters for Aboriginal People:
Aboriginal students make up 10 per cent or more of the school population in many school districts. School completion rates for Aboriginal people remain below 50 per cent, compared with 79 per cent for the general student population.
Literacy Matters for Families:
Reading to children before they start school helps develop their language skills and their interest in reading and learning in general. The children of parents with higher education levels have higher literacy levels, and much of the benefit comes with high school graduation.
Literacy Matters for Children and Youth:
In BC, one in four children is “developmentally vulnerable” when beginning kindergarten and one student in five is not completing high school in the expected time. Almost four in 10 youths aged 15 have insufficient reading skills.