Quinn’s Quips: The journey of literacy in BC is more difficult than it should be

The most important lesson I learned is that literacy is vital to every facet of life, yet it is poorly funded across the board.

In the July 23, 2015 edition of the Alberni Valley News you’ll see the first installment of the literacy stories I have been working on as part of my 2014 Peter Gzowski Life Literacy Fellowship. Researching my stories has been a long and sometimes puzzling journey for me—long because I’ve had a busy year outside of the fellowship, and puzzling because of the many things I have learned about adult literacy levels in the Alberni Valley and in British Columbia.

The more questions I asked, the more I learned. And the more I learned, the more questions I had. Admittedly, I lost focus a few times and had to refer back to my original application to keep me on track with what I wanted to do. I feel privileged to have shared in people’s literacy stories.

The most important lesson I learned is that literacy is vital to every facet of life, yet it is poorly funded across the board.

Literacy should be a no-brainer for governments of all levels. Statistics compiled by Decoda Literacy Solutions in BC show that people with higher literacy skills earn more, work more, make better health choices and are more involved in their communities.

A widely held theory about adult education is that it should be based on the needs of the job market. However, in an article last year in the Ottawa Citizen, journalist Matthew Pearson noted the federal government seems to be shifting its focus to job-ready employees rather than those who need a boost in their skills to make them employable.

This is problematic for the programs, largely not-for-profits, that focus on the latter. Core funding is disappearing for many grassroots literacy organizations and that is forcing those that don’t fold outright to spend more time searching for funding that they could be spending on adult literacy.

I am in awe at the creativity of the people who stretch their budgets to bring literacy programs to those who most need it. In the next few of weeks I will share some of that brilliance with you, as well as two success stories with people who have dealt with their literacy challenges head on. I’m interested in talking with anyone who is inspired by what they read.

If anyone else has a story to share, I’m willing to listen. My e-mail address is editor@albernivalleynews.com and my phone number is 250-723-6399.

As I conclude my own fellowship journey, I can assure you that this is really only the beginning for me when it comes to covering literacy issues in the Alberni Valley. This is a story that, for the foreseeable future, has no conclusion.

The 2015 winner of the Gzowski Life Literacy Fellowship will be announced later this summer, and I am excited to see what his or her perspective on adult literacy will be.

Susie Quinn is the Alberni Valley News editor and 2014 winner of the Peter Gzowski Life Literacy Fellowship.

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