The most recent international research study PIAAC (Programme for International Assessment of Adult Competencies) puts an important focus on reading skills by defining literacy as “the ability to understand, evaluate, use, and engage with written text to participate in society, achieve one’s goals, and to develop one’s knowledge and potential.”
The study shows that 17 % of Canadians ages 16-65 read below or at PIAAC Level One. Level One means that they have very limited decoding and word recognition skills. They struggle to complete simple literacy tasks associated with daily life such as filling out forms, job applications and other documents correctly, reading medication labels or understanding their bank statements. They are more likely to live in poverty as they have limited employment options. They are more likely to have health issues, limited community involvement and family challenges including both social and economic matters. Furthermore, many of them are also confronted with shame and blame as they harbour feelings of inadequacy, embarrassment, anger and frustration.
Due to these emotional barriers to learning as well as a scarcity of programs that provide beginning reading instruction for adults, current adult foundational programs are only serving a fraction of the adults who need assistance.
Until third grade, a child learns to read. After third grade, a child reads to learn. Children who read proficiently by the time they reach the third grade are much more likely to have the skills needed to graduate from high school, succeed in the knowledge-based workforce of the future and to achieve their full potential and become contributing members to society. Children who are not skilled readers at the end of the third grade are more likely to struggle with all academic subjects and then struggle in life.
- Reading does not develop naturally. It is not instinctual – children must be taught to read
- A small percentage of children appear to learn to read on their own with no formal instruction before they enter kindergarten. Others learn fairly quickly once they start school. However, it is estimated that as many as 30% of children struggle with reading throughout their school years, continuing to read haltingly and consequently lacking the ability to comprehend what they are reading.
- The challenge is more common among children from low-income families.