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The Importance of Reading and Literacy for Youth

Written by: Tvisha Shah & Amelia King

Edited by: Shazeeda Gafoor

Dear CCP readers,

Literacy rates in youth have seen a dramatic increase in the past 30 years, but we want to know, how does this relate to youth affected by homelessness, and how can we support this group of youth to develop workplace skills needed for success?

Today’s post will provide an overview of the importance of reading and literacy for youth to help develop workplace skills, namely youth facing homelessness.

If you are returning for more information regarding the current state of homelessness in Canada and the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) and the particular challenges faced by youth experiencing homelessness and those with animal companions, welcome back! If you are new to our blog, welcome to the community and thank you for your interest in learning more about issues regarding the homelessness crisis in Canada and beyond - you are one step closer to becoming a changemaker in your community, and you are in great company.

Why Reading Is Important

The abundant and lifelong benefits of reading have become so widely recognized that we can recognize someone who is “well-read” by a mature vocabulary. New parents may be scouring book stores and the internet for a conclusive answer on just how early to start reading with their children to ensure that they optimally reap these benefits during their most formative years. While the intellectual value of parents reading to their children in the womb may be difficult to measure

at times, there is no question that routine reading from a young age sets the stage for a child’s healthy learning and development. In fact, doctors often recommend that parents start reading with their children during infancy and continue to do so through their elementary

school years to promote and facilitate language acquisition, family bonding, communications skills, self-esteem building, and overall positive associations with reading. However, children coming from dysfunctional families or those who have been through the foster care system are unlikely to have made these essential associations between reading and social connections. Some social connections include but are not limited to empathy gained from reading fictional content, strong theory-of-mind—the ability to understand the inner worlds of others and ascribe mental states to them. Creating connections in reading promotes neuroplasticity, particularly in youth, as demonstrated by the increased brain connectivity–namely in the somatosensory cortex, which responds to physical sensations such as movement and pain–observed in fMRI brain scans while individuals are reading and for days afterward.

How Can Reading Help Us?

Along with developing more social connections and gaining a higher level of emotional intelligence, reading can prevent age-related cognitive decline, reduce stress, and aids in establishing healthy sleep hygiene (i.e. bedtime reading). Additionally, the strong connection to characters in books also provide a sense of safety and reduce feelings of estrangement from others. One study concluded that on average, people who read more than 3.5 hours every week are 23 percent likely to live longer than those who didn’t read at all. Aside from a mental health aspect, students who started reading regularly from a young age tend to develop larger vocabularies, expanding their communication abilities and often as a result, their social networks, job opportunities and even increasing standardized test scores in many cases.

Reading Helping our Job Prospects

Many youth facing homelessness need the opportunity to succeed, access to career-building resources and job training opportunities is crucial, as a stable income and employment is essential for self-sufficiency. Working towards establishing programs and opportunities for at-risk youth to get a foot in the door of a stable career of their choice would be most beneficial for long-term self-sufficiency and success among these youth.

Helping Youth Facing Homelessness

For many youth facing homelessness, their income or employment status is likely a result of a lack of access to education, both formal and numeracy education, or informal education listed on their resume. Connecting youth with jobs that specifically target this issue & are willing to train at-risk youth is key.

Potential difficulties in developing this type of education, training and employment program for youth facing homelessness:

  • Lack of permanent address (for pay stubs, T4, other important mail or government tax forms, etc.)

  • Inability to maintain proper hygiene in a shelter

  • Inconsistent access to adequate and healthy nutrition (food insecurity leads to inconsistent or consistently low energy levels, making work less efficient at times)

  • Following shelter rules or getting back to the shelter on time to secure a bed while attempting to maintain employment and adhere to employer’s needs

  • Physical and/or mental health and addictions issues

Beyond job training, programming must include education on the process of job searching, securing, and maintaining employment through not only job readiness training, but also life skills, financial literacy and management training for one’s personal life, including budgeting, shopping for essentials, such as food and a place to live, cooking, and other basic life skills to ensure stability and consistency in a person’s life. Personal life events can be catalysts to homelessness. Among the homeless population, youth with cognitive impairments are more likely to be at-risk. It is important to recognize developmental and learning disabilities for education & job-related training in particular! Navigating these complex social issues can begin with filling the gaps of information and education available to communities with youth experiencing homelessness, or are in the shelter system.

Where to Find Help

Eva’s Phoenix Employment and Training Program to provide youth facing or at risk of facing homelessness with skills-based experiential training and career goal development assistance to help youth secure stable employment with hands-on training so that they can transition to interdependent living.

Skill targets in this program, as listed on the Eva’s Initiatives website:

  • Develop personal action plans on how to meet employment goals

  • Learn job readiness skills, including resume and cover letter writing, and interview skills

  • Assistance with job searching, applications for employment, and training programs

  • Connecting with industry specific training programs and build technical skills

  • Access trainings including WHMIS, Smart Serve, Food Handlers, and other relevant trainings

  • Access on-the-job training placements and/or entry-level employment through job development support

  • Receive follow up support for a minimum of six months once employed

Construct GTA by Blue Door provides in-class training, on-the-job work experience, and supports to help individuals to acquire a long-term, well-compensated career in construction. It is a primary pillar of Blue Door’s to reduce homelessness, break down barriers for people to find employment, and to guide youth in their search for affordable housing.

CCP is working alongside Newmarket Public Library to build community libraries to be set up at shelters across the York Region to promote literacy among the residents. Newmarket Public Library and Markham Public Library have both donated a variety of books ranging from 2SLGBTQ+ related readings, youth/children's books, mystery books, fitness books, fiction books, non-fiction books, and all other general reading! These books will be donated to Blue Door to build five community libraries that are already being set up!

Shop Our Charitable Clothing Line

100% of proceeds go towards wellness programming for youth facing homelessness and their animal companions

Thank you for reading our blog post! We would love your input on future posts, comment what you would like to see next and like if you want more content similar to this!

- CCP Team


Blue Door Construction: Blue door. Blue Door Construction | Blue Door. Retrieved August 22, 2022, from

Burra, T. A., Stergiopoulos, V., & Rourke, S. B. A Systematic Review of Cognitive Deficits in Homeless Adults: Implications for Service Delivery. Review Paper. Retrieved from

Education, training and Employment. Education, Training and Employment | The Homeless Hub. Retrieved August 22, 2022, from

Stanborough, R. J. (2019, October 15). Benefits of reading books: For your physical and mental health. Healthline. Retrieved August 22, 2022, from

Stone, B., Dowling, S., & Cameron, A. (2019, July). Cognitive impairment and homelessness: A scoping review. Health & social care in the community. Retrieved August 22, 2022, from

Training & Employment. Eva's Initiatives for Homeless Youth. (2022, March 4). Retrieved August 22, 2022, from

Willms, J. D. Literacy Skills of Canadian Youth. Retrieved from

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