New funding for local adult literacy programs

More than 700,000 British Columbians are estimated to have significant literacy challenges

Community adult literacy programs in the region have just gotten some cash from the provincial government.

The Learners Opportunity Group Society in Hazelton, The Storytellers’ Foundation and the Learning Shop in Hazelton, as well as, the Smithers Community Services Association will all benefit from this latest round of funding.

Community organizer at the Storytellers’ Foundation Anissa Watson said they would likely not be able to run their programs without this money.

“We have relied on the funding for several years to run our literacy programs here. They do require a quite a bit of funding because they run for a long time during the years,” she said.

The Storytellers’ Foundation and Learning Shop run two weekly programs including a community kitchen where upwards of 20 people show up.

“It’s for anyone who is interested in learning food literacy skills, wants to build their social connections in the community,” Watson said. “And we have volunteer tutors on hand so if there are people who want to work on something specific they can work with one of our tutors.”

They also run a drop in program called Getting it Together. It’s geared toward people needing help filling out forms, especially online forms or to fill out applications and write letters. Watson said usually two or three people pop in once a week.

According to a press release from the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training more than 700,000 British Columbians are estimated to have significant literacy challenges and 45 per cent of adults in B.C. have some difficulty with daily living tasks due to limited literacy skills. Literacy challenges can include difficulty understanding newspapers, reading health information and following instruction manuals.

Also, 52 per cent of adults in B.C. have difficulty in accomplishing some daily living tasks due to limited numeracy skills. Numeracy challenges can include difficulty calculating interest on a car loan, using information on a graph or calculating medicine dosage.

Watson agreed there is great need for adult literacy programs.

“A lot of people view literacy as sort of reading and writing and what people need to enter into jobs or school or training. We see literacy a lot differently. It is always important to support people who want to build their literacy skills, whether it is their financial literacy or health literacy,” she added. “We also see it as an ability to have a dream and have a future for yourselves and make goals. It is always important to build those literacy skills.”

She added they are also seeing a shift in jobs and the older workforce losing employment, “We are finding an older generation who are looking to keep up and continue to provide for their families,” she said.

While Watson is grateful for the funding, she hopes more will come.

“Although there is more programming happening across B.C. the funding pot has not increased in about 10 years,” she said. “We are relaying more and more on community support and garnering that community partnership piece to make up for that. The need hasn’t changed, the funding just hasn’t grown.”

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