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B.C. government celebrates International Literacy Day through local literacy programs

Community-based Indigenous, adult and family literacy programs funded through the B.C. government help British Columbians gain skills in reading, writing, math and digital literacy.

“We know that training people to build their future through literacy is one of the quickest ways to level the playing field, break down barriers and open to improved employment opportunities,” said Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training. “When it comes to literacy, investing in one person at a time means investing in our province. Thank you to all of the allies who make this work possible and encourage everyone to take the first step to improve literacy.”

Sept. 8 is International Literacy day as founded by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in 1966. The first event was held in 1967. Celebrations take place around the world to remind the public of the importance of literacy as a matter of dignity and human rights.

In 2020-21, $2.9 million will be provided to 69 organizations that will deliver 94 Community Adult Literacy Programs (CALP) in over 80 communities throughout the province. This funding includes a one-time top up of $500,000.

These programs are provided free of charge and typically accessed through schools, Indigenous friendship centres and community centres in partnership with public post-secondary institutions. For many adult learners, literacy programs are an important first step in an educational journey to post-secondary studies.

“Adult literacy programs change the course of people’s futures. We see this every single day. Through this funding, adult learners gain essential skills for improving their daily lives and they set the foundation for better outcomes for themselves, their families and their communities,” said Margaret Sutherland, executive director, Decoda Literacy Solutions, the only provincewide literacy organization in British Columbia to provide service and support to over 400 communities.

A CALP typically includes one-on-one tutoring and small-group instruction and support for all levels of literacy from basic to high school completion. This year, as a result of COVID-19, the majority of programs have had to move online.

The government’s support of community-based literacy programs is part of its commitment to connect people with the education and training they need to succeed.

On Aug. 8, 2017, the Province made adult upgrading and English language learning programs in B.C. tuition-free.

Quick Facts:

  • In 2018-19, CALP provided services to more than 4,600 learners:
    • 18.3% identified as Indigenous;
    • 68.8% female and 31% male;
    • 39.9% employed, 39% unemployed and 15.1% retired; and
    • 46.4% had previously completed some post-secondary education or training.
  • More than 35% of working-age people do not have the literacy skills they need to achieve their goals, to function and thrive in the modern economy, and to develop their knowledge and potential.
  • In addition to difficulties with reading and writing, 52% of adults in B.C. have difficulty in accomplishing some daily living tasks due to limited numeracy skills. Numeracy challenges can include difficulty calculating interest on a car loan, using information on a graph or calculating medicine dosage.
  • The difference between adult literacy and Adult Basic Education programs is that community literacy programs are informal and non-credit. They are focused on literacy and numeracy with life skills and employment preparation programs delivered in the community, so students feel at home and more comfortable.

For a backgrounder detailing CALP throughout B.C. in 2020, visit:

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