“Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a tool for daily life in modern society. For everyone, everywhere, literacy is, along with education in general, a basic human right…. Literacy is, finally, the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman and child can realize his or her full potential.” Kofi Annan
With this in mind, Family Literacy Day, held each year on January 27, reminds us of the importance in developing our literacy skills.
But, recent statistics report that the average family in Canada spends 45 minutes less per day with each other than they did 20 years ago. The time spent on cellphones, BlackBerrys and the Internet means that families are spending up to five weeks less time every year communicating directly with each other. The following are helpful hints for parents:
Invest In Your children early
Simple things like reading and telling stories to a child at 18 months are powerful stimuli for brain development in the early years.
Reading to children more than once a day has a substantial positive impact on their future academic skills. In addition, research indicates children with early exposure to books and reading are better at performing mathematical tasks.
Children age 2 to 3 who are read to several times a day do substantially better in kindergarten at the age of 4 and 5 than youngsters who are read to only a few times a week or less.
Parents should pay careful attention to three potential reading slump times that can hinder a child’s reading development: when a child enters kindergarten; at grade 4; and when a child enters high school.
Having a parent or other caring person read aloud with their children helps children learn listening skills, vocabulary and language skills, as well as develop imagination and creativity.
Eighty-eight per cent of children aged 4 to 9 have a positive attitude about learning and look forward to school.
The Salvation Army and Literacy Programs
Because the needs in acquiring literacy skills are great across this vast country, The Salvation Army is dedicated to helping people grow and prosper.
In Simcoe, Ontario, The Salvation Army partners with other agencies to provide programs, which include the Parent Mother Goose program (a family literacy and language program) and Baby Song (parents assist their babies in language development and interaction through music).
Adult literacy programs, also, work at several levels – building self esteem as well as literacy skills, and offering support and social opportunities to adult students. On the other side of the country, in the Greater Victoria area, one of the major barriers people face in gaining employment is a lack of computer knowledge and skills. As a result, The Salvation Army commenced a Computer Literacy Training program in December 2003 that has proven to be helpful for many clients.
There are also those who need help with literacy, math and other skills to reach their work or other life goals.
At The Salvation Army Warehouse mission, located in Jamestown, Toronto, one of the poorest and most densely populated areas of the city an adult literacy program is offered every Tuesday night.
This began two years ago and assists visitors with math, reading, writing, pronunciation and comprehension. “Many come to the program with a grade 3/4 education,” says Lt. Linda Farr, co-ordinator. “They are so grateful for the opportunity to learn.”
And because five volunteer teachers graciously come each Tuesday one on one help is offered to single moms, and the several gentleman, many over the age of 40 who attend.
Then, after three months in the program a celebration is held where attendees receive a diploma, party and small gift to acknowledge their achievements.
How Can You Make a Difference?
Become a volunteer
Refer those who may benefit from our services
Make a financial contribution.
It is a fact that higher literacy levels result in a better quality of life through reduced poverty, lower unemployment, and decreased public assistance. Additional positive impacts include improving self-confidence and parenting skills, and increasing the number of job prospects and participation in community life in general.
by Linda Leigh