New year for all learners, not just those in school

Campbell River Literacy Association benefits as province renews funding for community and adult programs

With Tuesday of this week marking the first day of classes for many students, it also marked International Literacy Day, and as kids were getting geared up for school being back in session, the Campbell River Literacy Association (CRLA) was gearing up for another great year of its own.

Last week the provincial government announced the renewal of its funding for community adult literacy programs, to the tune of $2.4-million province-wide. That funding is for the Community Adult Literacy Program (CALP).

Kat Eddy, adult literacy outreach coordinator for the CRLA, says that CALP funds are at the core of what they do – customizing literacy offerings for the community they serve.

“What literacy outreach coordinators do is support and design literacy programs that are reflective of the needs of those individual communities,” Eddy says. “From community to community, obviously, literacy needs are different.”

What the CALP funding does, Eddy says, is provide funding that allows those smaller, community-based literacy programs – like CRLA – to have a more stable financial base from which to work, rather than constantly needing to patch together a budget from grants or donations that may or may not be available from year to year.

The funding announced last week, Eddy says, will allow those community literacy outreach coordinators to continue that work.

There are 107 communities within B.C. with literacy outreach coordinators. Campbell River has three.

Every year, Eddy says, in conjunction with School District 72, a “community scan” is done to assess the needs of the community in terms of its literacy offerings and gaps therein before programming can be determined.

“Something that makes Campbell River distinct is that we have four distinctive bands here, and a very large overall population of aboriginal persons,” Eddy says. “I like to think that SD72 has done their best to provide programming and educational pursuits that have met that demographic’s needs, but often times that’s not the case. So that tends to raise our numbers a bit more, maybe more than in other communities.

“We also have a really interesting, vibrant and diverse immigration population,” Eddy says, adding that when immigrants settle in large cities like Vancouver or Toronto, they gravitate towards others from their own culture and create little pocket-communities within the broader community. That’s not the case when they come to a town like Campbell River.

“The thing about an immigrant population – as well as a lower-income population – is that a lot of times, they’re working multiple jobs to support their families because they’re the ones working in minimum-wage jobs. If you don’t provide them with flexibility in pursuing their language pursuits, what happens is they don’t attend, and then they never move forward, and they continue to work those minimum-wage jobs and don’t contribute to the community they live in as effectively as they potentially could.”

Most important, from Eddy’s perspective, is the aspect of building a community of learners within the broader Campbell River community.

“We need to offer tangible things to families. If we’re asking a family to give up two hours of their day to come and join us, it’s not going to just be a lecture,” Eddy says. “It’s going to be a sharing of ideas, a sharing of educational concepts, a sharing of food … it’s meant to be the building of a community.”

This year, Eddy says, in addition to the continuation of their free, one-on-one tutoring, there will be a full workshop series on relevant topics – yet to be determined and announced – for learners of all ages and levels of competency.

They have also joined forces and are working in conjunction with Campbell River Family Services to provide a weekly seminar and food-sharing program.

“It invites families to come with their children, share a meal, and learn a relevant literacy topic – whether that’s financial literacy, or nutritional literacy, or parenting skills, or early literacy and reading and writing skills,” Eddy says.

CRLA is always looking for volunteers to help out. Anyone interested can contact them at 250-923-1275, check out their website at literacyforall.ca or stop in to see them at the Robron Centre, 740 Robron Street.