Literacy Unlimited is a non-profit organization on the West Island of Montreal, which provides free, one-on-one English tutoring for adults to improve their reading, writing and basic math skills.

Low literacy has far-reaching implications. It is highly correlated with lower income, poor health and food security, increased work accidents and absenteeism, unemployment and underemployment, and social isolation. Statistics are staggering. Four out of ten adult Canadians, age 16 to 65 – representing 9 million Canadians – struggle with low literacy. They fall below level 3 on the prose literacy scale. According to Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, level 3 is generally accepted as the “desired level of competence for coping with the increasing skill demands of the emerging knowledge and information economy.”

How are these statistics even possible? In some cases, learning disabilities such as dyslexia may be present. But in many cases, it can be a complex issue with a number of influencing factors: not finishing high school, not pursuing higher education, lack of educational opportunities, and lack of family support or poor literacy in the family environment. People who struggle will often learn coping strategies to mask their difficulties:

• They will avoid reading in front of another person by saying they forgot their glasses, or that they will bring documents home to review.

• They may ask for someone to summarize a document out loud (i.e. ask the Pharmacist to outline medication usage and side-effects)

• They may have a trusted family member or friend to help them read documents or fill out forms.

• They will often avoid or cancel meetings.

People may finally seek help when their coping strategies start being ineffective. So how can you help if you think you know someone who struggles with low literacy? Think R.E.A.D:

R = Recognize the signs

E = Empathize with the struggle

A = Assist by giving a referral (to a group like Literacy Unlimited or The Open Door)

D = Discretely. Respect that this is usually a very private problem.

Literacy Unlimited changes lives through improved adult literacy. Services are free of charge, flexible and discreet. To find out more about us, contact us at 514-694-0007 or at You can also like and follow us on Facebook:

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