Last Christmas, Gabriel Lavoie, a 72-year-old former truck driver from Alma, Quebec, received a gift from his daughter that would change his life.
"She gave me a gift card to come to the Alma Reading and Writing Centre. I'm in my fourth session with them," Lavoie told QMI Agency.
Lavoie drove trucks for 20 years relying heavily on his sense of direction and good memory. He couldn't read traffic signs, the names of cities, or even the menus at truck stops.
"In a restaurant, the waitress told me what was on the menu," Lavoie said. "I always ordered the special of the day, to avoid reading the menu. I ate the same thing twice a day so people wouldn't discover that I was illiterate."
Since receiving the gift of literacy classes, Lavoie has learned to read and write. While not yet writing at an advanced level, he did write his first letter — to his daughter.
"I wanted to prove to her that I could send her a message of love to thank her for giving me this gift," he said.
It's never too late to learn. Last year, a 98-year-old Connecticut man, who had been illiterate until the age of 96, wrote his first book.
In Canada, only 52 per cent of Canadians 16 years of age and older have literacy scores of Level 3 — the level required to function well in Canadian society — or above.