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Literacy group wants to support Whistlerites’ ‘learning for life’

Information session will help identify adult learning needs in the community
ART ENGAGEMENT The Dream Makers Literacy Committee is working to determine the adult learning needs of Whistler using arts-based research. A sample work from one of the group's training sessions can be seen above. Photo submitted

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but a regional literacy coalition is looking at ways to do just that through a community-focused program that will support lifelong learning in Whistler and Pemberton.

Between January and June of this year, the Dream Makers Literacy Committee will be collecting information on the adult learning needs of both communities. The group is inviting Whistlerites to join the conversation at an information session on Thursday, Jan. 14 at the local library from 2 to 4 p.m. The session will allow attendees to use art to show how they engage and interact with learning.

The goal, explained outreach coordinator Erin Stewart Elliott, is to identify ways to improve literacy in all of its many forms.

“You typically think of literacy as reading and writing, and it is, but it’s also things like numbers, math and how to use a computer,” she said. “It’s about digital literacy, recreational literacy, health literacy — all these things that go into people leading happy, healthy, productive lives.”

The committee has previously partnered with the Whistler Public Library on a slate of programming, like the Raise-a-Reader initiative offered last year featuring interactive workshops focused on building families’ basic literacy habits.

Ideally, the needs assessment will uncover ways to improve and build upon existing programs in the community.

“One of our guiding values for this project is that it be strength-based,” said Elliott. “We’re not looking at what’s wrong and how we can fix it, but more like what’s going well and how can it be even better?”

Elliott anticipates some of the biggest learning needs in the resort will centre around what she called “work literacy.”

“I think people really want to work and live in their community and that can be a struggle,” she added. “So how do you improve your skills, your training and your education so you can get a better job, make more money and work and live in your community?”

One figure that stuck out for Elliott as she was doing research for this program was the sheer number of British Columbians who regularly struggle with health literacy.

“Sixty per cent of British Columbians can’t meet their health literacy needs, so that could be that they have trouble reading or filling a prescription, how to measure medication or how to organize their time to take it in the correct way, or how to talk to a doctor,” she said.

Whatever the specific needs of the community, Elliott said it’s important that the learning process continues well after Graduation Day.

“The world is changing and it’s changing at an accelerated pace, so we have to keep learning just to keep living,” she said. “There’s this double-meaning of learning for life in that we have to learn throughout our lives and we also have to learn because of how much it improves our life. Learning touches so many different areas of our life.”

To RSVP to Thursday’s session, contact Elliott at A session will also be held Friday at the Pemberton Community Centre from 2 to 4 p.m.