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Media Release -- Survey Shows Literacy Rates Hold but Using Research to Change Policy and Practice can make the Difference for the Next Generation

June 29,2021 - Toronto – A keynote address today at the 4th Annual Network Conference of the Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network will highlight results of Canada’s youth aged 16-25 in the recently released Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey (ALL) and point to changes in policy and practice that can make a difference for the next generation. Yvan Clermont, international coordinator for the survey and Chief of the Test Implementation section of the Culture, Tourism and the Centre for Education Statistics at Statistics Canada, will give his address at 8:30 a.m. at the Toronto Marriott Eaton Centre.

The 2003 ALL survey measured the literacy skills of adults in seven countries, including Canada, and found that four in 10 Canadian adults lack the literacy skills that are required for most everyday reading requirements. Canada’s youth aged 16-25 generally performed better than older Canadians, however, after their parents’ education was taken into account, the survey showed a decline in literacy scores of youth between 1994 and 2003.

An important note is that the ALL survey does not measure Canada’s recent investments in improving early childhood literacy skills. In 2001 the Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network was founded and given $14.2-million for research programs through 2008.

“Despite Canada’s marginal improvement in literacy over the past decade, what this survey tells us is policy and practice can make a difference,” says Clermont. “The evidence shows how it is possible to reduce the disadvantages in skills typically associated with low levels of parental education and to improve the skills of an entire population.”

“The foundation for such skills is laid in childhood, so attention to how our children are learning is of paramount importance,” adds Dr. Donald Jamieson, CEO and Scientific Director for the Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network. “In addition to the impact of improved literacy levels for individuals and families, if we can achieve just a one per cent increase in the literacy rate, analysts tell us that we could achieve a 1.5% or $18-billion increase in Canada’s long term GDP.”

The 4th Annual Network Conference runs from June 26-29 and presents leading Canadian and International researchers in childhood language and literacy. More than 270 researchers, policy makers and practitioners have gathered in Toronto to share early childhood literacy research – the “Building Blocks” of positive change in literacy in Canada. For a complete conference agenda, please visit the Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network Conference Web site at

The Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network, a federal Network of Centres of Excellence, brings together leading scientists, clinicians, students and educators as well as public and private partners. The Network’s mandate is to generate, integrate and disseminate bias-free scientific research and knowledge that is focused on improving and sustaining children’s language and literacy development in Canada. The Network is hosted by The University of Western Ontario. For more information on the Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network, visit

The language and culture of my heritage is passed on to me orally. it's a different way of learning than how I am taught at school. How do I keep my traditional culture alive while learning to read and being immersed in the majority culture?

Reading is the core of learning and staying in school. Improving my reading skills will open up the doors to future prospects.

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