Literacy is defined by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute and use printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. It involves a continuum of learning to enable an individual to achieve his or her goals, to develop his or her knowledge and potential and to participate fully in the wider society.
According to the Canadian Literacy and Learning Network approximately 50 per cent of Canadian adults can't work well with words and numbers. Over 10 million Canadians are working at marginal or modest levels of literacy.
What's even more shocking is that according to Statistics Canada, nearly 15 per cent of Canadians can't understand the writing on simple machine labels such as a medication bottle. This in turn could be dangerous for the ability of a parent, for example, to limit or determine the dosage for a child.
In addition, 27 per cent of Canadians can't understand information on warning labels or hazardous materials. Occupational safety hazard? - I think so.
In total, approximately 42 per cent of Canadians are semi-illiterate and even when immigrants are excluded; the number remains almost the same.
For those who seek help to gain more understanding of literacy, there are significant socio-economic barriers and burdens to overcome.
Even well-intentioned literacy programs cannot address these barriers without appropriate resources, making the recent donation to the Lewisporte Area Laubach Literacy Council by the Kinsmen Club of Notre Dame and the Lewisporte Area Consumers Co-op 50/50 this past week all that more important.
The 50/50 contribution of $1,000 will allow a group of four outstanding women in this area to purchase additional resources to ensure more residents become literate and get the help they need.
Being able to read opens a whole new world to those who haven't experienced the joy of reading.
Having confidence while grocery shopping, travelling or filling out important forms to do with income support, identification or a job prospect is taken for granted by those of us who can read and write efficiently. However, for those who cannot, a simple form can cause a whole lot of heartache.
In speaking with members of the local Literacy Council, it's surprising to know just how many residents have availed of their services. The women travel to the person's home, meet at the local library or invite them to their homes and hold clients in full confidentiality.
This allows a student to get the help they need, while not feeling embarrassed about their limitations.
Kudos to these fine women and to those involved in making the $1,000 donation possible for this program to be offered in our area.
"For everyone, everywhere, literacy is, along with education in general, a basic human right.... Literacy is, finally, the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman and child can realize his or her full potential."
- Kofi Annan