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Skills for Success: Reading

The Government of Canada’s Skills for Success model defines reading as “your ability to find, understand, and use information presented through words, symbols, and images.”


How many kinds of text have you read today? Your ability to gather information through reading is necessary for navigating the world, whether you apply it to a product label, recipe, email, form, or report.

Reading is one of the 9 skills identified in the Government of Canada’s Skills for Success model. Launched in 2021, this model updates the original Essential Skills framework to reflect changes in the Canadian labour market and the modern workplace.

Reading is essential to finding, training for, and doing most jobs. Outside of the workplace, it benefits people of all ages, with endless applications to practical tasks, learning, and pleasure. It’s a path to building communication skills, discovering new ideas, and learning from and about the experience of others.

What does reading include?

The Skills for Success model divides reading skills into 6 components:

  1. Identify the task that requires reading. What are the goals of the task? Why will reading help you achieve the goal?
  2. Identify the information contained in a document. Use methods such as scanning and skimming to find key information in various types of documents—for example, articles, books, magazines, tables, charts, and maps.
  3. Make connections between different parts of a document. Connect different parts of the document. Identify relationships between ideas, such as cause-effect, problem-solution, category-example, compare-contrast, and whole-part relationships.
  4. Understand and apply the information. Summarize information to show that you understand the theme and purpose. Sort the information and apply the right information to complete tasks.
  5. Evaluate the document. What is the document’s purpose, tone, and structure? What is the source of the information? How relevant and truthful is the information or argument presented, especially in an online source?
  6. Reflect on the document. What audience is the document intended for? How has the author used evidence or language to persuade the audience?

Measuring reading skills

Your proficiency level is your ability to complete reading tasks of different difficulty levels. As you develop your reading skills, you’ll be able to:

  • Read longer and more complicated texts to find more pieces of information.
  • Evaluate the quality of a text.
  • Combine and interpret information from multiple texts and draw your own conclusions.

For reading, the Skills for Success model defines 5 levels of proficiency. Here are examples of reading tasks that you might do at each level:

  • Level 1. Read simple instructions on how to complete a specific work task.
  • Level 2. Read an email about changes to a workplace procedure and understand how it will affect your role.
  • Level 3. Find information in user manuals and company procedures to help you safely set up, use, and maintain a piece of equipment.
  • Level 4. Identify reliable sources to research how to troubleshoot an unusual problem with a complex software system.
  • Level 5. Read and interpret legislation or professional standards that apply to your occupation.

Reading skills in action

Consider some of the ways that people in different occupations apply their reading skills:

  • Electricians read and interpret technical diagrams and blueprints, manuals, regulations, and codes to safely install, maintain, and repair electrical systems.
  • Geologists read geological maps, diagrams, satellite images, and reports to locate and develop natural resources.
  • Pharmacists read and interpret prescriptions, medication labels, and drug information.

Reading strategies

Here are some strategies that can be useful for readers at all levels:

  • Read widely. The more diverse your reading, the more you’ll expand your vocabulary, your knowledge of different topics, and your ability to draw (sometimes surprising!) connections between different ideas.
  • Read critically. As the saying goes, don’t believe everything you read. Ask questions, and when in doubt, check multiple sources.
  • Skim first—but don’t just skim. Before you commit to reading a whole document, scan for headings and keywords to see if it has the information you need. If it does, then take the time to read carefully.
  • Keep a reading journal. Summarizing ideas not only lets you check your understanding but also helps you keep track of interesting and useful things you’ve read.
  • Read for fun (and other benefits). Whether you love a good novel or have a taste for non-fiction, reading for fun can boost cognitive function, reduce stress, increase empathy for others, and inspire creativity.

Helpful resources

Online learning courses

Improve your core skills at home by taking online courses. Online learning offers courses covering a wide range of topics, and some platforms offer free courses or free trials. Find out what your options are by searching these online learning sites for the skills you want to build:

Check out these resources to help you assess and build your reading skills:

Explore the Skills for Success model

Although particular skills may be more important in some jobs than others, all 9 skills in the Skills for Success model are needed for most occupations. These skills are not just about work—they come into play throughout our lives, forming a foundation for other technical and life skills, knowledge, and relationships.

Learn about the other skills for success:

Skills for Success: Reading (1:06)

Reading helps you understand and interpret the meaning of written words. That’s important for all sorts of day-to-day activities—like interpreting bus schedules or understanding travel advisories. Strong reading skills help you manage your time and do your job safely. Reading skills also help you learn other skills. For example, you can learn to use social media by reading online resources.

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