Literacy should be a key public policy initiative, says one of Canada’s business leaders.

Blog Literacy should be a key public policy initiative, says one...
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I had breakfast on January 23 with Craig Alexander, Senior Vice-President and Chief Economist with the Conference Board of Canada—and this was one of his key messages.

Actually, I was one of dozens hosted by the Centre for Family Literacy in Edmonton. Their annual Leading with Literacy Breakfast brings business, government and community leaders together to celebrate family literacy as an innovative approach to improving literacy in our community. Calgary Reads was pleased to be in the room to hear and to share.

Craig is a strong supporter of literacy and in his time as Senior Vice-President and Chief Economist for TD Bank Group, he was a champion of the institution’s involvement in numerous literacy initiatives. In 2015, Calgary Reads collaborated with TD Canada and other supporters to make Calgary (in particular the neighbourhoods of Inglewood and Ramsay) a site during the national Reading Town initiative.

Craig noted yesterday that 45% of Albertans have low literacy and five in 10 Canadians don’t have the desired levels of literacy to succeed in a knowledge-based economy. Since 1990, literacy levels in Canada have not improved.

He stressed that higher literacy can bring sustainable gains to individuals, businesses, the economy, society and democracy – and can alleviate a wide range of socio-economic problems, such as poverty.

Craig cited a recent Statistics Canada survey where findings suggest that a 1% increase in literacy could boost Canada’s national income by $32 billion. Raising literacy scores in Canada to an adequate level could create a ‘payoff’ of $80 to $100 billion.

He stressed the need for businesses to champion literacy. Not only does it help ensure a talented pool of employees, it improves the workplace through increased output and profitability, better team performance, increased quality of work, and better employee and customer retention.

My thanks to everyone at the Family Literacy Centre for hosting this annual event in recognition of Family Literacy Day (Jan 27th each year) – a national initiative that promotes the importance of reading and learning together as a family.

And, Craig . . . thank you for reminding us to link literacy messages to things that people care about – so we can show that we need to build everything else on a strong literacy foundation.

Steacy Collyer