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The dollars and sense of literacy: the Books for Kids campaign in the Kootenays

Raising literacy levels is worth billions to the economy, expert says
Literacy programs for children help to build the necessary foundational skills required for future learning and this in turn leads to greater success in life. Photo: Submitted

Submitted by the Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy

The annual Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy (CBAL) Books for Kids campaign does more than put books in the hands of children.

Our fall fundraising campaign helps CBAL to deliver family literacy programs and services in 77 communities across the Columbia Basin and Boundary. By helping children, and supporting their caregivers, we are helping to strengthen communities and positively impact the social and economic fabric of our communities.

We know getting children excited about reading and learning is where it all begins. Literacy programs for children help to build the necessary foundational skills required for future learning and this in turn leads to greater success in life. Participating in rich and diverse literacy programming in childhood makes a difference.

A literate society is a successful one, according to Canadian economist and president of Alexander Economic Views, Craig Alexander.

This past spring, Alexander made a presentation at the Decoda Literacy Conference in Richmond where he spoke about how low literacy levels negatively impact our Canadian economy.

As the world moves into the post-pandemic state, the labour market is shifting. In Canada, jobs are becoming more technical, which requires higher literacy, numeracy, and technology skills than ever before.

We need highly skilled workers, but many people fall short when it comes to literacy and numeracy according to Alexander. In 2012 a report by the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, 48.5 per cent of Canadians have below desired literacy skills and 54.7 per cent have below the necessary numeracy skills.

A recent Canada West Foundation report suggested raising literacy rates by one per cent could increase productivity by five per cent and the gross domestic product by three per cent.

The implication is that the total return on raising literacy is worth multi-billions to the economy, said Alexander.

Not only do people with strong literacy and numeracy excel in the workplace, but they also enjoy better health outcomes and are more likely to experience equity and participate actively in their community.

“Encouraging, promoting and delivering lifelong learning opportunities is our contribution to creating healthy and vibrant communities,” says CBAL’s executive director Desneiges Profili.

“When people have strong literacy skills, they also have the tools to lead successful and meaningful lives for themselves and their families.”

Now in its 12th year, the Books for Kids campaign supports local, community-based family literacy programs. Books for Kids is a collaborative effort between Black Press, Columbia Valley Pioneer and Mountain Goat newspapers, Blue Sky Clothing Co., and credit unions from across the Basin and Boundary.

Last year, more than $50,000 was raised to support the delivery of hundreds of family literacy programs and purchase over 6,000 books and resources.

Interested in helping? There are many easy ways to donate to the Books for Kids campaign. Donate online, purchase some literacy socks or order a Love2Learn t-shirt. For more information on how to support the campaign, visit All funds raised in a community will stay in that community to support local family literacy initiatives.

CBAL is a not-for-profit organization that develops, promotes and delivers literacy and essential skills services for people of all ages in the Columbia Basin and Boundary regions of British Columbia. CBAL’s 16 community literacy coordinators provide services in 77 communities, working with local literacy planning committees to develop effective literacy programs and resources.