The Literacy Clinic

Research & Statistics

It often surprises people to learn that our country has a significant literacy issue.  In Canada, we go to great lengths to ensure that our children develop a solid literacy foundation.  Our schools provide the policies, educational practices, and teaching strategies needed to build and improve literacy skills, yet research still indicates a decline in reading proficiency throughout the country.  Over the last two decades, Canadian statistics have provided an in-depth look at the distribution and level of literacy skills across the country.  These literacy skills are measured and categorized within five levels:

Level 5, which indicates the highest level of skill, is attained by individuals who demonstrate command of higher-order information processing skills. Level 3 denotes the skill level typically required for high school completion in Canada. Scores at or below Level 2 are considered inadequate for full participation in society.

(Statistics Canada and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Adult Literacy and Life Skills (ALL) Survey. Ottawa: Statistics Canada; 2005)

Statistics Canada has provided the following information:

  • 48.5% of Canadians aged sixteen to sixty-five have literacy scores below the Level 3 category. (Skills in Canada: First Results from the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies.  Ottawa: Statistics Canada; 2013)

  • 53.2% of adults in the province of Quebec have literacy scores below Level 3. (Skills in Canada: First Results from the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies . Ottawa: Statistics Canada; 2013)
  • In 2012, more than a quarter of university graduates in Canada aged 25 to 65 had a literacy score at the second level or below (out of five levels) in a survey on adult competencies led by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
  • There has been scarcely any improvement in Canadian literacy rate in the last decade. (The National, 05/24/06)
  • By 2031, more than 15 million Canadian adults, three million more than today, will have low literacy levels creating a "literacy dilemma" if the problem isn't addressed immediately. (Canadian Council on Learning, The Future of Literacy in Canada's Largest Cities report, Sep 8, 2010)
  • Four in ten Canadian high school students have insufficient reading skills. (Toronto Dominion Report-Literacy Matters, 2007)
  • Newfoundland and Labrador, PEI, New Brunswick, Quebec, and Nunavut have more people with low literacy than the national average. (International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey (IALSS), Human Resources and Skills Development Canada)

 For more information on Canadian statistics and research findings, visit

and visit Employment and Social Development Canada on adult literacy.