Words unread are lives unlived

A new grassroots movement is sounding the alarm on childhood literacy

11 May 2023

Did you know that childhood literacy is one of the biggest predictors of poverty for adults? A child’s ability to read will have a huge impact on their ability to navigate life, find employment, secure housing, and access services as an adult. 

You’re probably asking as you read this; “this isn’t an issue in Canada, right?” The truth is it is a problem, and the problem is growing. Here are some facts:

Noah's story

Noah is a rambunctious, energetic 4-year-old who is very curious about the world and eager to learn. Noah and his mom, Angela had to leave their home due to family violence and are living in the YMCA emergency and second-stage housing program. They are healing from trauma, surrounded by a supportive community, and living free from violence. While at the YWCA, Noah was able to access a reading program, which allowed him to access books and more importantly, give him avenues to explore his curiosity about learning.

In a world without books, Noah grows up and hides the fact that he struggles with reading and writing. He struggles to find a job, rent an apartment, and finds it extremely challenging to access services. Noah’s struggle with literacy is connected to mental health struggles, low civic engagement, poverty, addiction, homelessness, and incarceration.

So, what do we do? Enough for All is a supporter of a new initiative that kicked off today. Left Unread is a grassroots movement declaring that our children deserve the opportunity to realize their full potential and low literacy is not acceptable. It leverages data from a new report from the Canada West Foundation to make evidence-based recommendations to the community and policymakers all with the goal of advancing childhood literacy.

How can you help?

The complexity of the problem requires a network of solutions and Left Unread offers ways for people to act. Actions can be as simple as:

  • Reading with a child.
  • Visiting the library.
  • Supporting local book sales with donations and purchases.
  • Volunteering for childhood literacy programs at your local schools and libraries.
  • Engaging with childhood literacy with Left Unread by displaying lawn signs or stickers.
  • Sharing a social media post about a great book you read.

Now, especially, we have an opportunity to ask candidates in the provincial election where they stand on literacy in our province.

We know that low literacy in childhood leads to lifelong struggles – struggles that undermine a child's potential and the role they play in the future of our city. Words unread are lives unlived; it’s up to all of us to make sure no child is left unread.

Left Unread

One million Canadian children suffer from low literacy. One in four children do not have a single book in the home. No bedtime reading. No moral of the story. No happy ending. Low literacy starts in childhood and becomes a lifelong struggle that is often lived in secrecy, and undermines the well-being of hearts, minds, and our city as a whole.