Left Unread

Raising awareness of growing literacy concerns in Alberta

Community groups gather on International Literacy Day, September 8  

September 5, 2023 (Calgary, AB) — On Friday, September 8, public organizations and community leaders committed to child literacy are gathering for A Case for Action on Literacy in Alberta, a special event at Central Library to draw attention to the work of Left Unread and the ongoing need for action and support.

September 8 is International Literacy Day and this event is intended as a platform for community leaders and literacy advocates to draw attention to the impacts of low literacy on children and our communities. An opportunity to talk about challenges and paths forward, the event is hosted by Calgary Public Library in partnership with Left Unread, an initiative of the 369 Leaders Table.

“The Left Unread initiative is a great example of how our community comes together around important issues. More than one million children in Canada have below-grade-level reading skills and we have to work together to find solutions for our community to ensure that no child is left unread,” says Mayor Jyoti Gondek.

The event begins at 9:30 am (MDT) at the Patricia A. Whelan Performance Hall at Central Library (800 3 Street SE, Calgary). Following opening remarks from Mayor Gondek, CBC’s Elise Stolte will moderate a discussion on literacy issues in the community with panelists: Principal Bella Eagletail, Chiila Elementary School, Tsuut'ina Department of Education; Sarah Meilleur, CEO, Calgary Public Library; and Joanne Pitman, Superintendent of School Improvement, Calgary Board of Education. 

“Literacy helps people get where they want to go. We know that low childhood literacy leads to difficult pathways and is connected to mental health struggles, low civic engagement, and even more negative outcomes like poverty, homelessness, and incarceration. This is why we need to come together as a community to make sure no child is left unread,” says Jaclyn Silbernagel, Associate Director of Community Engagement, Vibrant Communities Calgary.

Calgary Public Library sees the impact of post-pandemic learning loss in children across the city and is one of the community groups supporting the Left Unread initiative.

“The Library has always provided early literacy supports, but today we’re seeing increases of learning loss for children of all ages and greater supports required for adult learners. We’re proud to work with our partners to issue this call for awareness and ensure that no child is left behind and that everyone can realize their potential,” says Sarah Meilleur, CEO, Calgary Public Library.

The Left Unread initiative launched in Spring 2023 to draw attention to literacy concerns in the province and connect community groups with shared interests. The initiative was timed to coincide with the release of The Case for Literacy in Alberta Report by the Canada West Foundation. Below are some of the community organizations supporting the initiative and ongoing work around childhood literacy and learning:

  • Big Brothers Big Sisters of Calgary and Area
  • Burns Memorial Fund
  • Business Council of Alberta
  • Calgary Public Library
  • Mount Royal University's Trico Changemakers Studio
  • PolicyWise for Children & Families
  • Rotary Club of Calgary
  • United Way of Calgary and Area
  • Vibrant Communities Calgary
  • YW Calgary


Did you know? 

  • One in six Canadian children struggle with low literacy. 
  • One in five Albertans face daily literacy challenges.
  • Twenty-five per cent of Grade 3 children in Canada are not reading at grade level.  
  • Pandemic disruption in children’s learning is forecast to cause a 30 per cent increase in socioeconomic skills gaps. 
  • Forty-five per cent of working-age Albertans don’t have the literacy skills required to perform most jobs in today’s economy reliably and consistently.
  • A one per cent increase in adult literacy would create an economic benefit of $67 billion GDP annually.
  • Fewer than 70 per cent of Canadian children between three to five years of age are read to on a daily basis.   
  • The greatest amount of brain growth occurs between birth and age five. In fact, by age 3, roughly 85 per cent of the brain’s core structure is formed.
  • Approximately 75 per cent of children who do not overcome their reading difficulties by the end of Grade 3 continue to struggle throughout their school life. 

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