Literacy in Ontario

Ten Key Facts About Community Literacy Agencies
August 18, 2019
Annual General Meeting – September 2019
August 19, 2019

Literacy in Ontario

Teacher and student sit together at an adult education class

Literacy is a serious issue in Canada and in Ontario. The International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey (IALSS) was released in 2005. IALSS, along with previous surveys, clearly demonstrated that millions of Canadians struggle with literacy challenges. The Ontario statistics are equally alarming.

The Ontario Literacy Coalition and the Movement for Canadian Literacy prepared the following analysis of Ontario’s results in “Responding to the International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey.”

Four in ten Ontarians aged 15 and over do not have the literacy skills they need to meet the demands of modern life. 1.3 million people (16.2%) struggle with very serious literacy challenges. They have difficulty with even the most basic written materials. Another 2.1 million people (26%) can work with print information but not well. A further 1.8 million (21.3%) working age Ontarians struggle with very serious numeracy challenges and they have difficulty with even the most basic math. Another 2.4 million people (29.1%) can work with numeracy but not well. Despite the need less than 5% participate in adult literacy programs.

You can learn more about the IALSS survey by visiting this link:

When considering these statistics it is important to think about Statistics Canada’s definition of literacy as “the information processing skills necessary to use the printed material commonly encountered at work, at home, and in the community.”

It is also critical to remember that literacy is no longer considered an all or nothing skill. We now know that literacy abilities exist along a continuum.

Adult Literacy Programming in Ontario

In Ontario, adult literacy organizations are funded by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU). MTCU’s Literacy and Basic Skills (LBS) Program provides literacy, numeracy and essential skills services that help learners achieve their goals related to further education or training, employment or independence. LBS services are offered through almost 200 agencies at some 300 sites across the province. The LBS program is offered by a variety of delivery methods geared to the individual needs of adult learners. It is also divided into four streams in order to serve Anglophone, Deaf, Francophone and Aboriginal learners.

For more information please visit:

Family Literacy in Ontario

Family literacy is about the ways families use literacy and language in their daily lives. It is about how families:

  • learn
  • use literacy to do everyday tasks
  • help children develop literacy
  • use literacy to maintain relationships with each other and with the community
  • interact with organizations and institutions

You can find local family literacy centres at:

For More Information

To locate an adult literacy program near you, please visit:


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