Plan enhances literacy

Thanks to the district literacy plan, all children in the Vernon School District have access to a wide range of programs and services.

Literacy Outreach co-ordinator Debbie Schiller recently updated trustees on the plan and its areas of focus.

“The stigma attached to low literacy is huge,” said Schiller.

“And we often hear from people working in the field that while they are able to help a child with low literacy, they don’t know where to turn to help an adult with low literacy, so we’re trying to make people more aware of the programs and services that are available.”

Schiller, executive director of the Junction Literacy Centre, facilitated six Plain Language writing workshops in Vernon and Lumby this past year.

She incorporates information about literacy levels, approaching people about their literacy skills and providing a literacy-friendly environment, allowing her to engage with business, policing, government, non-profit and other sectors that were difficult to reach in the past.

“The Junction building is the hub for services and information in the community,” she said.

A number of new projects were added during the 2010/11 school year, said Schiller, including the Screen Smart ad campaign and posters; Books for Toddlers; After School Reading Clubs at three elementary schools; After School Language of Mathematics Program for Grade 8 and 9 students at three secondary schools; Young Moms — Baby Steps to Grad program; Literacy at Work: Information for Employers; and the literacy and learning plan for the Okanagan Indian Band.

“Our Screen Smart campaign has been aimed at helping parents understand that children need to play more and be attached to screens and technology much less,” said Schiller.

“The funding came together nicely, where Interior Health helped with printing the posters and Vantage One has been been a big help.”

She said the Baby Steps to Grad program was developed to ensure that all young mothers know what help is available when they are ready to return to school.

“We often wondered if we were doing enough to help young moms get back to school after having their baby,” she said.

“We’ve identified two locations — the First Nations Friendship Centre and the Vernon Alliance Church — that can provide space for free child-minding, computer access and one-on-one tutoring, in a place where they don’t feel judged. Young dads are also invited to attend.”

Schiller said some of the things that support literacy work are learner motivation, making sure children who participate in programs are well-fed have fun and read books at their reading level; providing adults with learning opportunities that have a purpose, such as improving their job-related skills; helping children with early reading and math skills; finishing high school in order to access more training; collaborations with active partners who will see the program or project through to the end; core funding of three to five years is mandatory to move forward or expand programs, such as that received from Nixon Wenger Laywers and the Vernon Teachers’ Association.

“We have a number of goals for the coming year, including a seniors’ computer support program, adult literacy support at Howard House, and expanding after-school tutoring to include students in Lumby.”

Bill Turanski, school district chairperson, praised the report and said the importance of being able to read and to comprehend what is read cannot be overstated.

“Debbie, thanks to your effort, the sheer range and diversity of the literacy program, the initiative and the resources that you have encouraged and developed are truly incredible,” he said.

“You have also had to constantly deal with funding issues and it it is difficult to sustain programs without a reliable and stable source of funding and yet you seem to always find a way.”


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