Network of literacy coordinators reeling from cuts

Even a small amount of funding would help the province's literacy programs

Filed for publication with the Mirror

Don MacRae,

B.C. Minister of Education,

I’m sure you are already most acutely aware of the distress many of your B.C. communities are facing as they struggle to meet the reality of the Literacy Coordination funding cuts that have recently been announced.

I write this letter to thank you for your recent promises to find a way to restore the needed funding, and to add my voice to those who have already contacted you with concern as to the future of this province if literacy funding cuts are allowed to happen, and indeed, if literacy funding is not increased.

Since receiving the news of the funding cuts, the strong network of literacy coordinators in B.C. has been reeling and divided, left scrambling to find a way to reconnect and grow stronger. Your statements as to the likelihood of your ability to find restored and perhaps even increased funding for literacy initiatives across the province are what has provided a glimmer of hope for us to continue working toward.

Because of our already limited coordination funding, Cortes Literacy Outreach has focused on one broad literacy topic per year. Currently the focus is on youth literacy. Within that broad focus, and given the size of our Island and limited resources, we’ve had some great successes.

Our Young Writers programming has gone very well. Last year we held an 18-week essaywriting workshop series for youth. Our current workshop Spring series is for youth aged 10- 16. We have two instructors lined up, one teaching creative writing, and the other teaching Zine-making. Space has been donated for these workshops to be held, which is reflective of the community support here for literacy and youth programming.

We’ve received private funding to award $100 cash prizes each to the multiple winners of our Young Writers’ contest, which was held for the second time in 2012, and currently has cash prize money through to 2015. Each participant in the contest gets public community recognition, as well as their work published and made available for anyone to read.

I’ve talked to one of the mothers of a young man who participated in the contest last year, and she said that since the contest he has become quite serious about wanting to write regularly. He has taken his short story that he entered in the contest, and is now turning it into a much-longer chaptered tale. When he has finished his homework, he has been asking his mom, “Can I work more on my story writing?”

This Winter, Cortes Literacy assisted Peregrine publishers out of Campbell River to hold a book launch with readings from many local Cortesian authors. It was a very well-attended evening, despite the rain. Such interest in author readings, and a recent 247 per cent increase in community members connecting with Cortes Literacy on Facebook, is indicative of the community desire for literacy events and programming.

Upcoming Literacy projects include: in conjunction with other community organizations, helping to fund two First Aid courses, one for teens and the other for adults; strengthening the Teen Szene’s library; and helping to fund training for front-line staff who are working with youth on Cortes. Without future funding, this sort of work will not be possible.

Cortes Literacy has been meeting with other community groups and initiatives to strengthen relationships and discuss grant-writing collaborations. These collaborative ties and relationships such as with the private funders of the Young Writers contest are what stand to be lost with the funding cuts on the table here.

When our funding for the administrative outreach coordination is taken away, an island community like Cortes then has very little chance to find more funding.

Even if funding is able to be distributed again in a year or two, the new LOC will have to rebuild all those bridges again at that time.

Even a small amount of funding would help to keep those relationships and existing programming going, which in turn would help make grantwriting a more viable option, since private grantors look for community connections and support.

I appreciate the work you do and the value that I know you place on literacy in communities.

I’m sure you already know the statistics, such as that a one per cent increase in literacy levels across

Canada would result in increased worker productivity to the the tune of an estimated $32 billion added to the annual GDP. As a public representative of all of us in B.C. and here on Cortes, please remember the essential need for literacy funding in all communities across B.C., and fulfill your promise to restore cut funding, as well as work towards increasing literacy funding in the future. We are counting on you.

With sincere thanks and written on behalf of the Cortes Island Literacy Task Group,

Susanna Bonner

Literacy Outreach Coordinator, Cortes Island