Today we are surrounded by information. It is everywhere, and in many different forms. We use literacy skills constantly as we check our email, shop for groceries, pay our bills, read the news, and many other daily tasks.
Not only must we be able to interpret the written word, we need the skills to evaluate this information. What does the food label “light” really mean? When is an email from a stranger legitimate, and when is it spam? How do interest rates really affect me as a consumer?
The ability to answer these questions hinges on one thing: literacy skills.
“Literacy skills impact our lives and communities in ways that might surprise you,” said Ali Wassing, Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy executive director. “Studies show a strong correlation between high literacy levels, good health and low unemployment. Ultimately, a community is more resilient when its citizens have strong literacy skills.”
Since 2003, community literacy organizations throughout BC, such as the Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy, have had provincial support to develop community literacy planning committees. They discuss, plan and take action on literacy development for all ages and all needs.
Decoda Community Literacy Planning Guide says: “It is in communities themselves that literacy is practiced and sustained. Therefore, community engagement is essential to creating an environment in which literacy programs can be successful.”
In 2007, the province asked boards of education to be more actively involved. They are now responsible for submitting district literacy plans to the Ministry of Education. This comprehensive, annual document combines community literacy plans into one document for each school district.
Community members representing public health, school districts, colleges, municipalities, chambers of commerce, early childhood development teams, libraries, community services, employment agencies and many others come together as community literacy planning committees to discuss local needs.
“Interesting partnerships develop and important resources are shared at these community planning meetings,” said Betty Knight, Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy regional program manager, East Kootenay. “Everyone benefits.”
Books for Babies, Luv to Learn, Parents as Literacy Supporters, Parents Reading, Children Succeeding, One-to-One Reading, Young Parents Education Program, Seniors Computers and English Conversation groups are just a few of the programs introduced through the community planning process.
As awareness grows around health and financial literacy, and of how many aspects of daily life are impacted by literacy, the need for these community collaborations becomes more important.
This year, the community literacy planning committees are opening their doors wider, hosting open discussions about literacy service gaps, assets and possible solutions.
“We hope these meetings will draw more community members into a broader discussion of literacy and lifelong, life-wide learning,” said Desneiges Profili, Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy regional program manager, West Kootenay. “Everyone should be involved in literacy planning, because literacy affects everyone.”
If you are interested in being a part of your community literacy planning process, visit cbal.org and contact your community literacy coordinator.
Please support the Black Press and Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy Reach-A-Reader campaign on Wednesday, October 10 in Nelson. The funds you donate when you buy a paper will go toward local literacy programs, and community literacy planning. Your donation will change your community.