United for Literacy—Congratulations on One Hundred and Twenty-Fifth Anniversary

By: The Hon. Wanda Thomas Bernard

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Maman statue, Ottawa

Hon. Wanda Thomas Bernard: Honourable senators, I rise today grateful to be on Algonquin Anishinaabeg territory to acknowledge the one hundred and twenty-fifth anniversary of the organization United for Literacy, formerly known as Frontier College.

Literacy serves as a fundamental pillar of individual empowerment and societal progress, enabling individuals to navigate the complexities of modern life with confidence and dignity. However, despite strides made over the past century, significant challenges remain.

Shockingly, over one million children in Canada struggle to read at grade level, according to a study by Deloitte in 2022, and nearly one in five adults lack the necessary literacy skills for daily tasks. These statistics underscore the urgent need for continued collective action to address the root causes of low literacy rates.

United for Literacy is committed to actions to address literacy. Within the past year alone, they have supported over 33,000 people with literacy and numeracy. They have distributed over 72,000 free books and 10,000 custom reading packages in over 190 communities across our nation.

More importantly, their innovative programming is tailored to the unique needs of different populations, transforming lives and uplifting communities across the country. I am very impressed with their presence in Preston Township in my home province, where lower literacy rates have been impacted by systemic racism. They facilitate multiple programs there such as the Afrocentric Literacy Club, a program for African Nova Scotian youth with the goal of learning about the unique history of African Nova Scotians while strengthening their reading and writing skills.

There is also youth in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, tutoring and STEM clubs that offer hands-on science experiments. Their summer literature day camp provides literacy-focused activities for children, and their reading tents provide summer literacy support in underserved neighbourhoods. They work with community partners to develop these very engaging literacy programs.

Colleagues, please join me in congratulating United for Literacy on their 125-year legacy of service and commitment to advancing literacy in Canada. I look forward to joining them in a reading tent on Emancipation Day to celebrate these 125 years.

Working together to promote educational equity and opportunities for all Canadians, we will build a brighter and more inclusive future for all individuals.

Asante, thank you.

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