The Issue

More than 40% of Albertans live with a low level of literacy

(below Level 3 on international literacy measures).

Today, 4 out of 10 Albertans struggle with literacy. Imagine their challenges – school, books, job applications, safety manuals, menus, prescriptions, instructions, signs, maps… Imagine the cost to society – to education, healthcare, social services, the criminal justice system, the economy, to you.

Literacy affects people’s ability to learn and develop skills throughout life, to be employed and contribute value, to participate in the community, to engage socially, and to have a higher level of physical and mental health.


  • 15% of Canadians can’t understand the writing on simple medicine labels.
  • 27% cannot comprehend warnings on a hazardous materials sheet.
  • Over 40% have literacy scores below Level 3 (considered minimum level to function well at work and in daily living).

Imagine what Alberta could achieve if everyone could read. Improving rates of literacy improves the lives of individuals, families, communities, and economies. But, the proportion of Albertans with the basic skills required for our knowledge-based society is too low and is not increasing.

An achievable way to boost the social and economic vibrancy of our communities is to improve literacy levels. Research shows that improvement in literacy rates gives a much greater return on investment than physical capital.

"You need innovative strategies to improve literacy fast because the new wealth is going to depend on the ability of people to handle complex issues that can only be done if you have outstanding literacy. If we don’t get the basic literacy in place, forget the rest."

— F. Morisett, Industrial Relations Centre, Queen's University