Literacy in Ontario: The Rewards Are for Life


What Do You Know About Literacy?

Literacy skills are needed every day – at work, at home, at school, and in the community. These skills help people to take part in further education and training, as well as to find and keep jobs. They form the essential foundation upon which people can build additional skills, and they help people become more independent.

Adult literacy is a serious issue in Ontario. The International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey found that 16 per cent of adults in the province do not have basic literacy skills; an additional 26 per cent would benefit from literacy upgrading.

The Literacy and Basic Skills (LBS) Program

The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities manages the Literacy and Basic Skills (LBS) Program as a support for literacy agencies that help people improve their literacy skills. This program is designed for adults who need assistance in developing literacy skills. It recognizes the close links literacy training has with employability and independence.

The ministry also promotes literacy in Ontario by encouraging and supporting research and development initiatives in literacy, as well as by ensuring that those agencies offering the LBS Program have the support necessary to provide quality literacy services.

The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities provides more than $63 million to support delivery of the LBS Program at more than 300 sites throughout Ontario. The program is delivered by contracted school boards, colleges, and community agencies. More than 46,000 adults are receiving services from agencies that are funded by the ministry.

The LBS Program recognizes that the issue of literacy in Ontario reflects the province's diversity. Thus, the program supports literacy upgrading for Anglophone, Francophone, Native, and Deaf learners, an approach that improves access to literacy services for all Ontarians.

The Objectives and Functions of the LBS Program

The objectives of the Literacy and Basic Skills Program are to:

  • help Ontario move towards a seamless adult education system that supports lifelong learning;
  • support literacy agencies in providing quality services that meet learners' needs;
  • design literacy services for those adults most in need of them;
  • ensure accountability to government, to the public, and to learners;
  • foster closer links between literacy training and employment.

The LBS Program has two functions, encompassing eight services.

  1. Service delivery to learners is the primary function of the LBS Program. Service delivery includes information and referral, literacy assessment, training plan development, training, and follow-up. The mix of services offered in a community is determined by local need and is described in the community's literacy services plan.
  2. Service development is the second function of the program. The term refers to activities that support and improve literacy agencies' delivery of services to learners. Although they receive only a small portion of the program's budget, these services ensure that literacy training in Ontario is on the leading edge, relevant to learners and communities, and cost-effective.

The LBS Program focuses on people who are unemployed, with a special emphasis on Ontario Works participants. To be eligible for the LBS Program, a learner should be out of school, and in need of the literacy skills necessary to find and keep a job or to meet everyday needs.

Connecting to Literacy

ABC Canada has collaborated with the publisher of the Yellow Pages™ and literacy agencies to provide telephone numbers for organizations that offer detailed information on the literacy programming available in your community.

The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities has a Training Hotline service to provide answers to questions about training, including the LBS Program, and telephone numbers of literacy agencies across the province. Please call the toll-free Employment Ontario Hotline at 1-800-387-5656 or 416-326-5656.

For Further Information

To carry out research or to borrow resources and learning materials related to adult literacy, contact AlphaPlus Centre at:

Tel.: 1-800-788-1120 or 416-322-1012
Fax: 1-800-788-1417 or 416-322-0780
TDD: 1-800-788-1912 or 416-322-5751

Four umbrella organizations in Ontario support diverse literacy initiatives:

Four sectoral bodies in Ontario support distinctive approaches to literacy delivery:

For more information on literacy, contact the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities' Employment Ontario Hotline:

1-800-387-5656 or (416) 326-5656

ISBN 0-7778-9217-0