International Literacy Day is about more than reading

Literacy is a fundamental human right according to UNESCO

Literacy is not just about learning to read, write and do math, it is about giving individuals the tools to live a more fulfilling life and improving society as a whole. Being literate as an individual means being able to navigate a website, conduct banking and send a text message on a cell phone. Being literate as a family means being able to read to your children, help them with their homework and read a map together while on a family holiday. Being literate as a society means participating in politics through voting, having an opinion on current events and feeling like a participant in the future of our country.

In British Columbia, 40 per cent of citizens have a hard time reading a newspaper, filling out application forms or reading a map. Forty-nine per cent of British Columbians do not have the skills to calculate a tip, create a budget or understand credit card interest rates. Seventy per cent of seniors in B.C. have low literacy, likely due to lack of use and health problems. (See www.Decoda.ca for more statistics on literacy in B.C.)

Fortunately, in 2008, the government of British Columbia formed a program called Literacy Now. Out of this initiative was born the Sooke Region Community Literacy Plan in which our community’s literacy needs were identified and programs were developed to address them.

Fast forward to 2014 and the successful programs in our community are still in place. The Book Bins, placed at SEAPARC, Sooke Child, Youth and Family Centre, The Stick in the Mud and on the T’Souke Nation Reserve, offer free children’s and adult books to the community. About 150 books per week are distributed to our community through this program thanks to some very dedicated volunteers. The Books for Breakfast program for preschool children will be starting this fall for the fourth year in a row, where a healthy snack, story time and a free book are provided to participants. This summer 24 school aged children, enjoyed a free Play and Learn Camp (Literacy, Numeracy and Recreation).  All students enjoyed the benefit of learning through play and building upon and improving their literacy skills, thanks to camp staff, volunteers and funders. The Sooke Literacy Task Group, made up of community members, is dedicated to finding solutions to any of the literacy challenges in the Sooke Region. For more information on programs please go to www.sookewestshoreliteracy.com .

Over 40 years ago, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared September 8 as International Literacy Day. This year, they are celebrating the day in Dhaka, Bangladesh by holding an international conference on Girls’ and Women’s Literacy and Education entitled “Foundations for Sustainable Development.”

UNESCO sees literacy as “a fundamental human right and the foundation for lifelong learning. It is fully essential to social and human development in its ability to transform lives. For individuals, families, and societies alike, it is an instrument of empowerment to improve one’s health, one’s income, and one’s relationship with the world.”

For more information on programs please go to www.sookewestshoreliteracy.com .

Contributed by Stephanie Croft, Sooke Region

Literacy Outreach Coordinator

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