Beyond Dick and Jane 

Literacy not just about reading anymore, local forum concludes

By Vivian Moreau

Whether to start a bookmobile, to lower costs for local continuing education courses or offer bus pass discounts were just some ideas mulled over at a recent community forum held in Whistler.

Organized by Capilano College and 2010 Legacies Now, three forums held in Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton attracted about 60 people to talk about literacy in the Sea to Sky corridor.

Whistler resident Betty McWhinnie volunteers at a Whistler elementary school once a week, helping children with their reading, and says “people would be shocked” to know how many kids and adults have difficulty reading.

McWhinnie attended the March 30 morning workshop held at Spruce Grove Field House and says it’s the stumbling blocks that accompany poor reading skills that have to be overcome.

“If people have a command of reading they get the self-confidence to face battles in life,” she said.

McWhinnie was one of a dozen who attended the Whistler workshop that looked to raise awareness about literacy and find solutions that could be used in the Sea to Sky region.

Lauren Stara, Whistler’s head librarian, helped to lead the workshop and said although Whistler is a highly educated and affluent community there are “hidden pockets” of people, like transient and immigrant workers, who might want to improve literacy skills that can include not only reading, but language and computer skills. Stara said civic literacy, or how to become an informed voter, is also part of the literacy matrix.

“The idea of literacy goes far beyond what it used to mean, the ability to read,” Stara said.

Leona Gadsby represented 2010 Legacies Now, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting B.C. sports and culture programs, at the three forums. The Sea to Sky workshops are just three of 65 being held around the province that bring community and educational leaders together to find ways to improve B.C.’s literacy rates. 2010 Legacies Now intends to give $10,000 to communities to implement projects identified through the workshops.

Although many ideas were brainstormed, Gadsby said top priorities identified for Whistler include forming a task force to raise literacy awareness and hiring a coordinator to oversee whatever project is agreed upon. She said although each of the three corridor communities addressed different approaches to literacy, she thinks there may be regional solutions that can be taken up, whether a newsletter or an inventory of community resources.

“One of the things Whistler folks identified was need for coordination, for a point person, someone who really continues to look for the partnerships and program development that needs to happen.”

Capilano College’s regional literacy coordinator will compile suggestions resulting from the three workshops, Gadsby said, and will help to organize a Whistler task force that will look to raising awareness and finding solutions that can contribute to raising B.C.’s literacy rates. Anyone interested in joining the task force can contact coordinator Michelle Lebeau at Capilano College in Squamish.

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