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The Benefits of Literacy in our Communities

Literacy is a foundational life skill, but did you know it also offers other benefits beyond comprehension and engagement with written texts? Developing literacy skills enables us to function in society, achieve our goals, and develop our abilities. It has been shown that adult literacy levels benefit not only individuals but also society in general.

Here are some of the ways literacy impacts our communities:

Better Employment Opportunities

Literacy levels and income are strongly correlated. People with lower literacy skills are more likely to be unemployed than those with higher literacy skills. In addition to reducing employment and promotion opportunities, low literacy skills can also present a health and safety risk at work. Increasing an individual’s literacy levels leads to the development of employable skills, higher wages, and increased job satisfaction. Supports that improve literacy skills not only benefit the individual, but also the economy, creating opportunities for innovation and economic growth. The research shows that for every dollar invested in literacy programs for adults, society receives $7.41 back.

Increased Community Involvement

Literacy levels can influence an individual’s involvement in social situations and community participation. Often those with lower literacy levels do not feel comfortable or confident in their social abilities and tend to shy away from participating in social events or getting involved in their communities. Participation in adult literacy programs is associated with increased participation in social events, community action, and national politics. It has been shown that literacy program participants reported an increase in community participation and were more likely than non-participants to register to vote. Increased literacy levels can create a greater sense of community, fostering social inclusion and acceptance.

Improved Personal Wellbeing

Literacy skills have a profound impact on personal and mental wellbeing. Many people with low literacy skills find it hard to do everyday things that others take for granted. Individuals with lower literacy skills are more likely to report poor health and be more socially isolated. Literacy also plays an important role in overall life satisfaction, with 78% of literate people reporting being satisfied with their lives, compared to only 50% of illiterate or lower literacy level people. Literacy affects more than an individual’s ability to read or write; it factors into everyday interactions with others and overall self-esteem. Increased literacy levels result in a stronger feeling of social inclusion, increased confidence, and enhanced relationships with others, leading to a fuller, happier life.


Did you know that 48% of Canadians have reading, writing and numeracy levels that fall below the levels deemed necessary for the demands of work and life in our country? The YMCA offers support to adults who may struggle with reading, writing, math, and computer skills through our free Learning Service community program. Our program provides an opportunity for adults to improve their skills and work towards independence, employment, or academic goals.

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