United for Literacy: Canada’s Literacy Connection


Taylor © Courtesy of United for Literacy

Taylor was three years sober from an addiction that had taken everything from him, including his education. He did not finish high school and lived on the streets for several years. Taylor worried about how he would find and keep a job. He searched the web for answers and found United for Literacy, a national charitable literacy organization dedicated to improving the lives of children, youth, and adults through free literacy programs.

Taylor wanted to get his high school diploma but knew going back to school wasn’t suited for him. He joined the New Directions program in Toronto, where tutors provide literacy, basic skills upgrades, and GED (General Equivalency Diploma) preparation. His goal was to get into the building trades, such as electrical or carpentry.

For young people like Taylor, United for Literacy can be life-changing. After doing virtual classes and working at his own pace, Taylor gained the confidence and skills he needed to get his GED. Today, he is working his way to becoming a pipelayer.

Literacy is misunderstood in Canada. There is a perception that high literacy rates equate to most of the Canadian population, which is not necessarily the case. In fact, one in five adults in Canada struggles to read basic sentences or fill out a form—which makes it difficult or impossible to navigate everyday life.

Literacy touches virtually every aspect of our lives and has a great influence on our well-being.

“Literacy has changed my life in so many ways. Ever since I was a young child, I had a fascination with reading books. I used to skip high school to spend my days in the public library, immersing myself in other worlds, escaping my own reality. Reading and writing have given me a safe haven and have saved my life more times than I’d care to count. To me, literacy means protection, happiness, and confidence. It means skill building and understanding. The feeling of having a bright life and future ahead is a very tangible thing to me now. For someone who feared his future and succumbed to the depths of unfathomable darkness, knowing that I am supported and have an actual future ahead of me is something priceless that words cannot describe,” Taylor explained.

Literacy is the foundation of all learning. Everyone can learn, but not everyone has access to the support they need. Through a network of trained employees and volunteers, United for Literacy offers free tutoring to adults, youth, and children who need extra support to succeed in the mainstream school system, in the workplace, or in life.

“I take pride in knowing that I am helping people gain valuable literacy skills and a new perspective on the possibilities for their lives,” explained a volunteer tutor.

united for literacy
© Courtesy of United for Literacy

Canada continues to face unprecedented challenges to literacy due to school disruptions caused by COVID-19 and the demands for an increasingly sophisticated understanding of written language to fully participate in daily life. Early gaps in schooling or socio-economic factors mean many people are playing “catch-up” from the beginning. United for Literacy’s learner-centred approach—tailored to a person’s skills, interests, experience, culture, and goals—engages them in deciding what they want and need to learn.

Literacy changes everything. Be a part of the change and get involved today.

Learn more at unitedforliteracy.ca

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United for Literacy has been delivering literacy programs to people in communities across Canada since 1899. We started by hosting reading camps equipped with books and volunteers to teach people in remote locations.


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