Kootenay Lake School District bus driver John Nykiforuk won a Community Literacy Award in 2011.

Simple ideas for literacy in Nelson reap big rewards

Recognizing contributions to community literacy is a way to learn wonderful stories coming out of the simple support of reading.

Recognizing contributions to community literacy is a way to learn wonderful stories coming out of the simple support of reading.

Nomination forms for this year’s Community Literacy Award are out and the Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy is looking for more simple yet outstanding contributions to recognize.

Joan Exley, literacy outreach coordinator for BCAL is excited to hand out the award for a fourth year. She says the “ripple effect” of John Nykiforuk’s Books on the Bus program that won him the Community Literacy Award two years ago was huge.

“John did a small thing in putting a box of books on his bus,” she says. “Sometimes we don’t realize that the small things we do make a big difference.”

Nykiforuk, a bus driver for Blewett School, had a problem with students being disruptive and unruly on his route. With the support of the school principal, he decided to put a box of books on his bus. That box still sits there today.

“The kids grab them and share them,” Nykiforuk says. “They find warmth in reading a book, sharing a book with a friend on the bus or even reading a book to a younger student.”

Discipline issues on both the bus and in schools have drastically decreased while literacy of students has improved — all with this simple box of books.

“Some of them even take the books home to read to their parents so the positive reinforcement continues there,” he says.

The Books on the Bus program garnered Nykiforuk attention beyond his route and his school. Along with media interest he was awarded the 2012 School Bus Driver of the Year award by the Association of School Transportation Services of BC.

“Driving a school bus is more than your ability to drive your bus from A to B,” he says. “What does that do to teach these kids? We can be their mentors — someone different to give them some positive praise.”

Exley says literacy is something that weaves through everyone’s lives though it may be difficult to realize its impact on individuals and the community.

“There are a lot of people who do both small and big things that impact others in terms of their learning. Celebrating that is a wonderful thing,” she says. “It also de-stigmatizes ‘literacy’ and promotes the idea that literacy is not about someone who can read or can’t read. It is much broader than that and all of us are working on our skills throughout our lives.”

Anyone who makes a contribution can be nominated whether it be volunteer tutors who help someone study for a drivers licence test to keep a job or an adult who has worked through literacy challenges who spends a little bit of time to talk to others facing the same barriers, “a small time turned into inspiration, motivation and giving those people hope that they can tackle their challenges too,” says Exley.

Things like a teacher believing in a child, a friend who lends books and has  great conversations or a grandparent who gives time to sit and read together are also very impactful.

Last year, Judy Runions was recognized for her effort reading to her special needs grandchild over the phone, giving her daughter a break while forging a connection and helping the child with literacy.

“I think we can never underestimate the power of sitting down and reading a book with a child. It seems like a small thing. But it is building confidence, connection, skills, a sense of the value of learning, an understanding of how our language works and on and on,” says Exley.

Nominations can be sent to Exley at CBAL by email at jexley@cbal.org or dropped at the Nelson Star, Library or Learning Place in City Hall. A committee will choose a winner in June.

 

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