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Literacy program raises awareness

Plan reaches out to residents to build skills through four topic areas

Powell River Literacy Council plans to launch a new campaign this year based on ideas and feedback generated during a recent literacy forum.

Literacy: It Means More Than You Think will focus on topic areas—economy, health, family and community—for a month each. “During the focus month there will be a strong push to share information with the general population about how literacy affects that focus area and how we can work as a community to strengthen the focus area,” said Emma Levez Larocque, literacy outreach coordinator, during a presentation to City of Powell River council on March 15. “As well as raising awareness, we will target actionable items, giving people easy things they can do to build their literacy or things they can do to help others around them build their literacy.”

During the literacy forum held in January, experts from different parts of the community talked about how literacy, or the lack of literacy, affects their workplaces, homes, organizations and lives in general. “When most people think of literacy they think of reading, writing and maybe numeracy, but true literacy is about much more than that,” Larocque said. “It’s about all the skills we need to survive and function successfully in our everyday home and work situations.”

According to Statistics Canada, approximately 40 per cent of British Columbians are functionally illiterate, Larocque explained. This doesn’t mean that the people who fall into this category cannot read or write at all, she said, but it does mean that they do not have the skills necessary to do things like read a newspaper, fill out a work application form, read a map or understand a lease. “Even more people find it difficult to calculate a tip, create a budget, calculate sales tax or understand credit card rates,” she said. “Too many people are not reading and writing or functioning at a level that makes best use of their skills and potential. This affects our economy, this affects our health, it affects our families and it hurts our community.”

Each focus area will have three different elements: a media campaign, a lunch and learn and a community contest, Larocque said. The literacy council will be seeking community partners to sponsor each focus area. “We’re really looking for local businesses and organizations, including city council, to get on board with this important issue and help make the improvement of local literacy a community goal,” she said.

“Literacy touches every part of our lives,” she added. “It’s about adults as well as children and it’s about much more than reading and writing. Each one of us can strengthen some part of our own literacy skill set and each of us can help to support others in the community—friends, family members, employees, co-workers and acquaintances—in improving their literacy skills.”

Interested readers can contact Larocque at emma@powellriverliteracy.com, or call her at 604.485.2004.

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