The Importance of Raising Literacy and Essential Skills in the Comox Valley

Did you know?

  • Right now, over 150,000 British Columbians aged 25 to 54 haven’t graduated from high school (BC Stats 2011)
  • Approximately 600,000 adults do not have the literacy and essential skills they need to achieve success in their career goals (Skills for Growth: British Columbia’s Labour Market Strategy by 2020)
  • By 2020, B.C. will have 1.3 million new job openings; there are 650,000 children in the school system now

The impacts of low literacy rates for families and communities are far reaching. Multiple studies show that literacy rates are linked to crime, health, employability, and overall quality of life. Consider the following:

  • On average, offenders have significantly lower literacy skills than the general population. Investing in literacy, especially for families and youth at risk, is an effective crime prevention strategy.
  • People with low literacy skills have poorer overall health. Low literacy skills lead to misuse of medication or misunderstanding of health information. Reading practices in daily life are strongly related to health literacy (Canadian Council on Learning, 2008).
  •  People with low proficiency in literacy tend to have lower rates of employment, and they tend to work in occupations with lower skill requirements. Adult wage rates are also highly related to literacy skill. Adults with strong literacy skills earn roughly 68% more than those with weak literacy skills (Canadian Literacy and Learning Network, 2012).
  • Parents who have strong literacy skills and who have pursued further education increase the probability of their children’s success in school and lifelong learning. Investing in a parent’s learning is a direct investment in their children’s literacy abilities.

Not surprisingly, increasing literacy skills increases social and economic opportunities for families and our community. As Dr. Seuss so eloquently says: “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Currently in the Comox Valley, literacy and essential skills training is offered through various formal and non-formal providers. North Island College, the School District, the Adult Learning Centre, and Comox Valley Lifelong Learning Association (CVLLA) are examples of providers who offer training using a variety of delivery models that include workshops, one-to-one tutoring, classroom instruction, learning circles, mentoring and embedding literacy into other forms of learning (such as cooking).

One example of a community-based Literacy and Essential Skills program is the Comox Valley Family Literacy Outreach Program (FLO) program. FLO is a six-week program that addresses three areas: food/health literacy, support for early years learning, and adult literacy and essential skills. Through the program partners (which include CVLLA, North Island College Upgrading, Adult Learning Centre, Creative Employment Access Society, Comox Valley Family Services, School District 71 Strong Start, and LUSH Valley), adults and families connect to community social and literacy supports, services and resources. Participants of this program have achieved considerable success. Children have learned songs and rhymes while moms and dads have been supported in registering for college programs, applying for work, volunteering in community and starting their own business.

The FLO program is supported by funds raised through the Raise-a-Reader campaign. The Raise-a-Reader campaign, held in September each year, raises awareness of literacy as well as raises money for literacy programs, resources, and services in the Comox Valley. Every penny raised goes to local literacy programs. The campaign culminates on Raise-a-Reader Day – September 24th, 2014. Volunteers wearing bright orange shirts will be out between 11:30 and 1pm throughout the Comox Valley handing out a special literacy edition of the Comox Valley Echo in exchange for a donation.

The FLO program exemplifies our ability, as community providers, to provide accessible, learner-centered, collaborative programming to meet the needs and realities of families. The Raise-a-Reader fundraising campaign exemplifies our capacity as a community to ensure that literacy programs continue to be offered. Together we can raise many readers.

To donate to Raise-a-Reader, go online to www.raiseareader.com/donate, and click on 'Comox Valley' under Fund/Designation. To donate by phone, call 1-866-637-READ (7323) or call the Comox Valley Echo at 250-334-4722. You can also mail in or drop off your donation at the Comox Valley Echo (cheques payable to “The Comox Valley Echo”). For more information contact the Comox Valley Lifelong Learning Association by email at dhoogland@shaw.ca or by phone at 250-897-2623.