The Sunshine Coast Literacy Council is reaching out to fill literacy needs on the Coast, and they aren’t all related to reading and writing.
“Traditionally it has been reading and what you learned in school, and that lasted you your whole life, but now that world is changing,” said council member and literacy outreach co-ordinator Sandy Middleton. “So we talk about computer literacy, for example. If you want to apply for EI you have to do it on-line, so you need that kind of literacy in order to do that.”
Literacy relates to the ability to understand things and Middleton notes literacy skills in different areas need to be cultivated throughout a person’s life.
“The needs are really broad. For example, there is early literacy … school-based literacy, the kind of literacy that meets the needs of a kid or somebody growing up just out in their day-to-day life. And then there’s the whole adult spectrum,” Middleton said.
In the area of early literacy, much is being done, said Kirsten Deasey, council member and early learning co-ordinator for School District No. 46.
She co-ordinates several different programs to reach out to families with children under five.
“I tell people how important it is to talk, to sing, to read and to play with children within families in engaging and loving ways. That’s my main message,” Deasey said.
“We know that it makes a big difference to talk to kids early on. The vocabulary that they’re learning, the structure of language, all those things will have a huge impact on them in later literacy development.”
Deasey co-ordinates StrongStart centres throughout the Sunshine Coast, which provide a space for kids and parents to explore, play and learn together, free of charge. The popular centres open up again on Sept. 10. For more information about StrongStart, contact Deasey at 604-885-6787.
A recent literacy project created at the Gibsons and District Public Library will soon be available Coast-wide.
Library outreach co-ordinator Lynda Kennedy created a tailor-made presentation for seniors who will soon have to take a computer test to keep their driver’s licence.
“My job is to look at the community and see where the gaps are and try to close them,” she said.
She saw there was a need for clarity about the new test and the agencies involved in administering it.
“So I put on a workshop about who are the agencies involved in a re-examination. There are five,” she said.
In this case building the seniors’ literacy about the issue came down to breaking the information into bite-sized chunks, free from corporate lingo.
“Lynda presented it to them in a way that was understandable. Sometimes it’s not the person who has a literacy issue, it’s the way the information is presented that is the issue. I think this is a great example of that,” Middleton said.
The council has found that another barrier to literacy can be as simple as a negative feeling.
Council chair Sue Lamb has noticed that phenomenon while working at Halfmoon Bay Elementary School.
“In the time that I’ve been at Halfmoon Bay, our mission has been to create a welcoming environment, a place where people feel they belong. Over that time I’ve seen such power in that philosophy- — that we don’t learn if we don’t feel socially accepted and safe,” Lamb said. “Whether we’re babies or we’re new moms or we’re seniors or whatever it is, if you feel anxious or you don’t feel like you fit, you don’t absorb literacy in the same way.”
That’s why the literacy council works to create welcoming spaces when developing programming.
“That’s the key — if you want people to come and feel welcome, you have to create programs that they will come to, that meet their needs,” Middleton said. “That’s why we’re trying to do these projects that aren’t institutional based, they happen out in the community. We are trying to create places for people to come to learn the things they need to learn, these foundational building blocks, to meet the needs in their lives.”
The Sunshine Coast Literacy Council is made up of representatives from educational and community organizations whose vision is that “residents of the Sunshine Coast have opportunities to develop literacy throughout their lives; to achieve their education, work and social goals; and to realize their potential.”
If you would like to get involved with the council or want to know more, contact Lamb at 604-885-2177 or Middleton at 604-885-9310 ext. 5928.