Adult Literacy

Do you want to go back to school? Do you know someone who needs to upgrade their skills? Adult literacy and essential skills programs are free to citizens in Ontario. Contact Project READ to find a program near you in Waterloo Region or Guelph-Wellington.

Project READ can help adults to identify their skill levels. Please contact us to find out if you are eligible for a free Educational Skills Assessment. We will help you find out the level of your skills and link you with a program that best suits you.

Contact – Tel: 519-570-3054 or Email:

You can download our free Directory of Programs (Click on the purple button on the right side of this page).

What is Literacy?

Literacy means more than knowing how to read, write or calculate. It involves understanding and being able to use the information required in today’s society. Literacy is not a fixed skill. It needs to be exercised or it will likely deteriorate. Use it or lose it!

Many people with low literacy skills have some reading, writing and math skills, but they may lack the skills needed to cope with the demands of our rapidly changing society and economy. Most adults with low literacy skills have English as a first language. Low literacy affects many aspects of life including health, income, employment, parenting, further training and daily living.

Ways to tell when literacy is a problem:
  • Reluctance to read in front of people
  • Small or illegible handwriting or asking someone else to fill out forms
  • Reluctance or refusal to help children with school work
  • Higher dependence on TV or radio for information
  • Frequently being late for or missing appointments
  • Restless, distracted or even frustrated when information from printed materials is discussed
  • Lack of printed material in the home
  • Limited or interrupted school attendance in childhood
  • Children doing poorly in school (low literacy can be intergenerational)
  • Less than grade 12 education
  • Received education in the “special ed”, “life skills” or “basic” program in high school
LBS agencies in Ontario provide 5 key services to every adult student:
  • Information and referral – Ensuring an adult is in the most appropriate program for their needs.
  • Assessment – Identification of an individual’s knowledge, skills and challenges
  • Training Plan – Preparation of an adult’s learning pathway to meet his/her goals – short and long term
  • Training – Instruction to support skill building
  • Evaluation and Follow-up – Evaluation of learning progress at exit from the program and 3 and 6 month follow-up contacts

In Ontario, Literacy and Basic Skills (LBS) programs are delivered within a 3 Level – 6 Competency Framework. This Framework addresses the first 3 levels of the national Essential Skills matrix (5 levels). Adults need to function at Level 3 in order to be successful in today’s workplace and modern society. LBS training helps people prepare to move into any of the 5 key paths – employment, secondary credit courses, post-secondary education, apprenticeship training, and independence.

  • Find and Use Information
  • Communicate Ideas and Information
  • Understand and Use Numbers
  • Use Digital Technology
  • Manage Learning
  • Engage With Others

An individual student follows his/her own expedient pathway to their long term goal rather than completing all outcomes in each level one-by-one. This customized training allows an adult to focus on critical skills development to meet immediate goals. LBS training is a fast path to success – upgrading skills to: start an apprenticeship, begin a new job, accept a promotion at work, enter post-secondary education, get a GED or participate more fully in the community.

Scenario: A student with Level 1 reading enters a literacy program and wishes to upgrade to get a better job at the large retail store where she works. The better job involves using computerized cash and inventory systems as well as writing reports and reading stock sheets. Her literacy training will focus on increasing her literacy and basic skills to support her job goal. She keeps her job while she upgrades and the employer benefits from her new skills.

For adults who are unsure of the skill levels, Project READ provides an initial, routing assessment of their literacy and Essential Skills. This assessment, recognized by LBS agencies in our membership, provides a pathway for the adult to access upgrading and training.

For more information about literacy programs and networks in Ontario, please view our FAQs.