What is Literacy?

What are we talking about when we say we want to “make literacy a way of life”? We all may use the word “literacy”, but may not have the same understanding of what it means. In terms of the work of London’s Child and Youth Network and this website, literacy is defined as:

  • The ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute using printed and written materials and
  • The ability to express thoughts, feelings and ideas

Literacy is a key piece of helping people achieve their goals, develop their knowledge and potential, and participate fully in their community.

Why the Focus on Literacy?

The Child and Youth Network identified literacy as one of its top 4 priorities. Literacy is an issue for many of London’s children, youth and families.

  • Over 27% of our children are not ready to learn when they enter Grade 1
  • In 19 of 26 London neighbourhoods at least 20% of children are not ready to learn when they enter Grade 1
  • At least 1 in 3 children in London ages 8 to 14 is not meeting the literacy and numeracy standards established by the province
  • 19% to 23% of youth in London are failing to graduate from high school (within 5 years)
  • 1 in 5 adults in London is functioning at the lowest level of literacy, often unable to read basic signs and medicine instructions

The emphasis on literacy needs to start at the beginning of a child’s life. Children who struggle with literacy will become youth and adults who struggle with literacy.

Although London is average in terms of literacy – no better and no worse than other communities – being average comes at a cost. Compared to those with low literacy skills, people with strong, well developed literacy skills are:

  • Better able to earn a living and contribute positively to the workforce
  • More likely to seek medical help when they need it
  • More likely to maintain healthy diets and to be physically active
  • Less likely to suffer from diseases such as diabetes and poor cardiovascular health
  • Less likely to suffer from work related injuries
  • Less likely to be involved in crime
  • More likely to advocate for their children

What is Family Literacy?

One of the goals of the Child and Youth Network is to improve family literacy. How is family literacy different from literacy, in general? The term "family literacy" refers to literacy activities that take place in the everyday lives of families; it’s what families do together in their homes and out in their local community or neighbourhood. "Family Literacy" is used by programs that aim to increase the amount and frequency of family literacy in homes and communities. Family literacy is:

  • About the ways families use literature and language in their daily lives
  • About how families learn
  • About how families use literacy to do everyday tasks

Some examples of family literacy include:

  • Shared reading activities
  • Parents/caregivers modeling appropriate language skills, labeling objects and actions and describing what they or their child are doing
  • conversations between children and parents about their environment and events of the day

This website provides you with lots of ideas on how you can make literacy a part of your everyday life.