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Mapping out literacy

A literacy forum in the Kispiox has identified a need for safe and comfortable spaces where people can learn.
Storytellers' Foundation community organizer Sarah Panofsky with an ideas map created at a public gathering last Monday.

A need for safe and comfortable spaces where people can learn in outlying communities was one of the issues raised at a public gathering held at the Anspayaxw Community School in Kispiox Village last Monday.

About 30 people attended the meeting, organized by the Hazelton-based literacy group Storytellers’ Foundation, to discuss ways of improving literacy in communities surrounding the Hazeltons.

Storytellers’ community organizer Sarah Panofsky said the meeting started with a discussion about the true meaning of literacy.

“The first part of the evening was the discussion of what literacy is, and challenging people to move beyond the simple understanding of literacy as reading and writing and mathematics to literacy as fundamentally the skills, knowledge and confidence that we need to live empowered and engaged lives,” Panofsky said.

People at the meeting were encouraged to write down the ways that literacy touched their own lives.

On different coloured sheets of paper, they also identified the types of people in their communities with the greatest literacy needs, and suggestions of ways to address them.

The notes and suggestions were then posted to a large poster to make a map.

“People put [their suggestions] up on this map so that people started to conceive of literacy not only happening in the library but also in their aunty’s house, out on the land, in gardens within the wilp, which is the traditional family structure of the Gitxsan,” Panofsky said.

Feedback from the group identified safe places for people to meet were needed to facilitate literacy and learning.

Ideas like game nights, gatherings around food and activities for people of all ages, such as storytelling, were raised by the group.

Storytellers’ also used the gathering as an opportunity to seek feedback on a tutoring program it is launching this winter.

The program will aim to bring together experienced educators with other community members who want to contribute.

“We are hearing from more unlikely leaders, maybe people who haven’t even graduated from high school themselves but who have basically strong reading and writing skills, who would like this opportunity to learn and to give back,” she said.

“Our hope is to pair these two up.”

The program will be launched in Glen Vowell and Kispiox Village after the training takes place in January.