As the Literacy Outreach Coordinator for Literacy in Kamloops (LinK), Fiona works with various community partners to improve the literacy levels of children, youth, adults and seniors in Kamloops. A few of these initiatives include the Bright Red Bookshelf, The Bright Red Book Bus, the KRCC Storybook Program, Interior Savings Unplug and Play Family Literacy Week, One to One Reading, Kamloops Partner Assisted Learning and Come Read with Me workshops. LinK works together to reach out and provide relevant literacy services across Kamloops to support literacy as a life long journey.
Since January is Literacy Month, we caught up with Fiona to learn more about her view on the topic and what is happening locally to support literacy.
- When most think of the word literacy, they think of one’s ability to read. How would you define literacy?
Literacy is the ability to understand our rapidly changing world, so that we can engage fully and confidently in life’s activities and opportunities. It is our toolkit of skills and strategies that we use to make sense of our world. In the grocery store, at work, in the doctor’s office, at home, we are surrounded by information that we need to understand. Technology has changed our world and the twenty-first century demands that a literate person possess a wide range of abilities and competencies. Being literate has moved beyond reading and writing into information and digital literacies. We create share and evaluate information differently. We connect, communicate, and do things in new ways with the use of technology. Technology has changed our world and the twenty-first century demands that a literate person possess a wide range of abilities and competencies – new literacies.
- Would you define literacy as a preventative initiative?
Yes. Improving literacy increases our health and well being, parenting skills, life skills and productivity. Crime decreases as opportunity increases. As individuals, as communities, and as a society, we become stronger and more resilient as our literacy increases.
Literacy is an issue that touches virtually every aspect of our lives. Due in part to limited literacy skills, 45% of British Columbians aged 16 to 65 have some difficulty with daily living tasks like filling out a form, comparison shopping, understanding instructions and credit card interest rates, or reading a newspaper.
Literacy is everyone’s responsibility. It takes literacy organizations, service providers, businesses, municipal governments and other community leaders working together to identify and address literacy needs and priorities and set in motion plans to create positive change. We must take up the challenge.
- Is it ever too late or too early to become literate?
The simple answer is NO. The sooner we start reading, talking, singing to our children the better. The more we do it, the more we build a strong literacy foundation,critical for lifelong learning. And it is definitely never too late. Just last year, Teresa, 84 years old, graduated from Street School. As long as we are motivated to learn, we can.
- With “screen time” being a hot topic among many parents, do you have any suggestions to families who want to ensure literacy become a part of their daily routine?
Much has been written about this topic by people who know more than I do, but I believe it’s about finding a healthy balance between screen time and active family time. Nothing is more important than that daily face-to-face time between parents and children. Talking with your children about what you are seeing, reading, doing, is essential for their language development. I also believe every child should be read a bedtime story. It was a special time for our family and continued to be so for many years. Parents are their children’s first and most important teachers. Just 15 minutes a day of reading together or playing a game can make a huge difference in a child’s development of literacy skills. Doing everyday routines together like sorting laundry, cooking, or making a shopping list strengthen family relationships, build literacy and promote lifelong learning. It is really is that simple!
- What is happening this January in Kamloops for Literacy Month?
The 8th annual Heap the Honda Children’s Book Drive takes place January 7th to 28th. New or gently used children’s books can be dropped off at Kamloops Honda, North Kamloops and Kamloops libraries, Henry Grube Education Centre and any Bright Red Bookshelf location. The goal of this project is to increase book ownership in all homes and to encourage a love of reading. Over the past seven years, more than 75,000 children’s books have been donated. Volunteer Coordinator Faith Bailey and her husband, Al, organize teams of volunteers throughout the year to sort, clean and sticker books. Volunteer tenders distribute the books to Bright Red Bookshelves at 22 school and community locations. More than 500 volunteer hours are committed to this project each year.
We have also planned an annual week-long celebration that promotes Family Literacy. Family Literacy programs encourage parents and other family members to be actively engaged in supporting each other’s learning. Interior Savings Unplug and Play Family Literacy Week takes place January 21st to 28th in support of national Family Literacy Day®, January 27th. Local organizations are hosting free activities for all ages throughout the week for families to enjoy together. These include Public Skating, Family Floorball, Xploresportz, Lego Club, Mannequin Challenge, Bingo Night, Rhythm Fun with Drums, Glow in the Dark Art, Seniors Tea and more. The week starts off with ABC Family Literacy Day, hosted by the partners of Kamloops Early Language and Literacy Initiative (KELLI) at the Henry Grube Education Centre on Saturday, January 21st from 9:00 am to 12.30 pm. This year, families will enjoy “Under the Sea” themed free activities, fun and stories. Each child receives a new-to-them book from the Heap the Honda Children’s Book Drive.
Our goal is to raise awareness about the importance of family literacy and also the importance of finding a healthy balance between sedentary screen time and active family time. More than 5000 students will try to reduce their recreational screen-time by taking the Interior Savings Unplug and Play School Challenge. Youth and adults are encouraged to try the digital detox too.
On January 26th, speaker Lenore Skenazy (New York blogger, columnist, author, reality show host, and founder of Free Range Kids) talks about on Giving our Kids Freedom, Smarts and Independence without going nuts with WORRY in the Lounge at the Sandman Centre from 6.30 pm to 8.00 pm. She is also presenting at 12.30pm at the Henry Grube Education Centre. Register at eventbrite.ca. Admission is by donation to Loonies for Literacy.
For a full schedule of events please check out www.literacyinkamloops.ca.