United for Literacy CEO says low literacy affects economy, poverty, human rights

Melanie Valcin, the president and CEO of United for Literacy, an organization that aims to improve Canadians’ understanding of written language, believes “we have a big problem when it comes to literacy rates in this country.”

“We see how literacy changes everything, and how people who are struggling with literacy are really left behind,” she told CTV’s Your Morning on Tuesday.

“We have one Canadian out of five who is struggling, for an example, to read the prescription on a bottle of medicine, or is struggling to navigate the health system, or is struggling to vote.”

Reasons for insufficient literacy skills, Valcin said, include Canadians not completing high school, learning disabilities, or steep learning curves for newcomers who are learning a new language.

“If you are struggling with reading or writing or even with numeracy or your digital literacy, then how can you navigate the world in which we live today?” Valcin said, pointing out that such difficulties can stand in the way of applications or forms for employment, housing, and other written material the wields basic needs.

“Often we can correlate the cycle of poverty with the cycle of low literacy,” she said.

Valcin added that low literacy not only affects individuals but the country’s economy. “It affects our productivity, it affects our prosperity, and, frankly, it affects our human rights in this country.”

To learn more about Valcin’s take on Canada’s literacy, watch the video above.

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