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International Literacy Day: How Two Latter-day Saints Are Promoting Literacy in Canada

Did you know that one in six Canadians scores at or below the lowest level of the most basic set of literacy tests, and 48% of adult Canadians fall below a high school literacy level?

See this infographic for “Life Literacy Statistics” in Canada.

September 8, 2022, marks UNESCO’s 55th International Literacy Day. UNESCO reports that “despite progress made [globally], literacy challenges persist with at least 771 million young people and adults lacking basic literacy skills today” (

Audrey Azoulay, director-general of UNESCO said, “Through the celebration of International Literacy Day, UNESCO calls on all actors in the field of education and beyond to rethink the role of literacy” (

See UNESCO’s call to action in this moving video: “International Literacy Day 2021: Literacy for a human-centred recovery: Narrowing the digital divide.”

Latter-day Saints support global literacy efforts and believe in the importance of lifelong learning. Chieko Okazaki, former first counsellor in the Relief Society general presidency, encouraged, “Some of you may feel that your chance to gain more learning has passed you by. It is not so. You can learn at any age” (Rowing Your Boat,” October 1994 general conference).

On International Literacy Day, two members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints share their stories of improving literacy in Canada.

I. Turning Weakness into Strengths

Rachel Wagner Lemblé, a Montreal Latter-day Saint, shared her literacy journey, from early childhood challenges to a career spreading the gift of literacy.

Lemblé fondly recalls visits she made as a child, with her mother, to an occupational therapist. Lemblé only later understood the visits were due to a reading disability. Her mother made efforts to promote literacy at home, even as three of her five children struggled with dyslexia. This approach shaped Lemblé’s love for literacy and her career, eventually leading her to a position as the executive director of the South Shore Literacy Council (SSLC) in Montreal.

The COVID-19 pandemic proved to be a unique challenge to global literacy efforts. According to UNESCO: “This year’s International Literacy Day will be celebrated worldwide under the theme ‘Transforming Literacy Learning Spaces’ and will be an opportunity to rethink the fundamental importance of literacy learning spaces to build resilience and ensure quality, equitable and inclusive education for all” (

Lemblé’s organization approached the COVID-19 challenges by creating the Judith Schurman

Lifelong Learning Initiative — online programs designed for seniors. The pandemic pushed the SSLC to utilize virtual tools to meet the needs of students globally.

Today, Lemblé leads several programs in the Montreal area, including tutoring for adults, music literacy for children and classes for adult students with intellectual disabilities. Lemblé places great emphasis on the importance of extending literacy beyond just reading and to more than just children. These programs introduce students to literacy in a variety of ways that are unique to their needs. Lemblé shared, “Language becomes enjoyable when you hear it in a pleasant way from someone who is genuinely concerned about your learning, genuinely vested in you.”

II. Passion for Speed Reading

George Stancliffe, from British Columbia, has a contagious enthusiasm for speed reading. His passion began over five decades ago. Introduced to speed reading as a child, he eventually decided he wanted to master it. After years of self-study, a professional course and intermittent practice, he struggled to gain what he calls “native fluency” in speed reading.

Then, at 38 years old, Stancliffe discovered a key factor to speed-reading literacy: font size. This discovery helped him develop a unique method for speed reading and begin teaching it to others. Since then, his lifelong passion has been shared with hundreds of students around the globe through classes he has taught online and locally, in community centres and in schools.

In Stancliffe’s first class of just 12 adults, many struggled to progress. By chance, one student brought her elementary-aged son to class when she could not find a babysitter. Within 15 minutes, the child was reading 800 words per minute with full comprehension. His success gave the adults hope, and they began to progress as well.

After succeeding with adults, Stancliffe shifted his attention to teaching children. He recognized they were generally more adept at speed reading. He is now known worldwide as the foremost expert in teaching speed reading to children. His first book, “Speed Reading 4 Kids,” is now published in five languages.

Stancliffe explained, “When teaching children speed reading, it has to be fun. When I began teaching in public schools, I happened to also run a vending business. Daily practice is essential to progressing in speed reading, so prizes from my vending business were the motivating factor for children practicing on their own.”

Stancliffe also stressed the value of today’s accessibility to the tools needed for speed reading. His latest book focuses on using a cell phone to practice speed reading. “With so many e-books available nowadays, a person can easily amass a library of several thousand high-quality e-books for free.”

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that God has given each of us gifts and encourages us to improve upon them and seek other gifts (see Doctrine and Covenants 46:8, 11; 1 Corinthians 12:31). God has also instructed us to “seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:118). Church leaders encourage members to engage in efforts to increase literacy, learning and skills training (see “Education,” Gospel Topics).

Contributed by Stephanie Schindler

Read the aricle in French.

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.