Impact of COVID-19 on Language and Literacy in Canada report

One of the most significant achievements of a young baby’s life is the emerging ability to understand and use language to communicate. Language is an inherently social phenomenon— its meaning and power stem from how it is used by members of a community to convey thoughts, ideas, feelings, and to identify tangible elements in the environment. Due to the inherently social nature of language, children rely on information provided by parents to learn the words and rules of their native language. 

In older children, youth, and adults, we tend to think of language in the context of an even broader term, literacy. While broader definitions of literacy are sometimes used to indicate fluency in the use of the many skills needed to succeed in society, in this report, unless specifically noted, we define literacy as a person’s ability to read and write. Early literacy is linked to better educational attainment levels, improved employment opportunities, and increased earning potential. Moreover, early literacy paves the way for adult literacy later. 

Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the lives and well-being of individuals and communities all over the world. The series of papers collected in this report explore and review the impact of the pandemic on various aspects of language and literacy development. Originally invited as individual contributions, the papers have been organized into four themes for the purpose of this report: 

  1. Achieving Language and Literacy 
  2. Multilingualism in Language and Literacy Development 
  3. Challenges to Language and Literacy Brought on by COVID-19 
  4. Language Use During COVID-19 

Each theme is prefaced with a brief introduction to the topic, followed by the papers themselves. We conclude this report with a compilation of a number of key recommendations directed toward parents, teachers, educators, and policy makers. The wide range of topics covered by these collected papers reflect the many ways that language and literacy have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

You can download the full report as a PDF here.

You can download the report in English and French from the RSC website.