September 13, 2017

Canada’s Science Literacy Week and National Science Reading Day

Posted by Laura Guertin


Next week, Canada will be hosting a nationwide celebration titled Science Literacy Week (

Science Literacy Week highlights Canada’s outstanding scientists and science communicators from coast-to-coast. The goals are to showcase the excellence and diversity of Canadian science and to show how exciting science is. Be it as simple as a science-themed book display encouraging people to read something a little different to multi-day events, the week offers something for everyone. For one week in September, libraries, universities, museums and other partners put on a spectacular nationwide festival of science. — About, Science Literacy Week

With support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and an impressive list of partner universities, libraries, museums, publishers, etc., Science Literacy Week is working towards collaborating and communicating science with the public. Some organizations are creating their own themes for the celebration, such as University of Toronto Libraries’ Science in a Post-Truth Era. From talks to dissections, to sky viewing to nature walks, there is a range of science-themed events that is sure to spark an interest in learning more about science.



As part of National Science Literacy Week, on September 20, elementary and secondary teachers as well as students between the ages of 6 and 17 are encouraged to devote a period of the day to science readings. It’s all to celebrate National Science Reading Day. Suggested types of readings include non-fiction books, science-fiction novels, science-themed graphic novels, scientist’s biographies, and science magazines. A Sci Lit Week book list for all ages is available online.


Canada is not the only nation that has a week dedicated to science. Australia has a National Science Week that takes place in August. India’s Science Week culminates in National Science Day, and the United Kingdom has a National Science & Engineering Week. Norway, South Africa, and China also have national celebrations focusing on science. The National Science Foundation used to host a week-long National Science & Technology Week (NSTW) in the United States from 1985 through 1999 – unfortunately, I could not find a clear explanation online as to why that ended or what may have taken its place.

I love the idea of both a Science Literacy Week and a National Science Reading Day. It would be great to see the United States host a similar national celebration (beyond our science fairs/festivals, and beyond the USA Science & Engineering Festival that takes place only in Washington DC). I could see nationwide efforts hosted/organized by our professional scientific societies, universities, libraries, etc., all during the same week. There’s no reason we couldn’t keep National Chemistry Week, Earth Science Week, and the other focused day/week/month celebrations. But are we really helping everyone understand science by keeping our discipline science celebrations siloed from one another, and by hosting large science gatherings only in DC or in major cities (such as the successful Philadelphia Science Festival)? The grand challenges we’re facing in science – climate change, energy, water, food security – are all interdisciplinary topics that require interdisciplinary solutions. Why not have an interdisciplinary science celebration, too?

I think all of us agree that science literacy is not only important but is needed, now more than ever, for everyone of all ages. A national celebration of science should be inclusive and accessible to all people at all locations. Best wishes, Canada, for a successful Science Literacy Week!