Being able to read and write is a fundamental building block for learning and personal empowerment. Although many believe that Canada is doing well on the literacy front, the fact is that nearly half of Canadian adults have low literacy levels.
Research states that poverty has a direct link to illiteracy. And the lack of basic literacy skills can result in social isolation, the inability to find employment or use technology, and more.
In Weetamah, one of Winnipeg’s poorest neighbourhoods, The Salvation Army’s literacy program is helping adults with low literacy reach their full potential as parents, grandparents, community members and employees.
“The year-long program gives people a second chance at their education,” says Carley Tay, Computer and Literacy Instructor. “From our program students can move into any other literacy program in the province and have their prior learning recognized and accepted toward their continuing education.”
Open to anyone with a low literacy level (usually below Grade 6), classes include reading, writing, math, social studies and life skills. Field trips, life-skills lunches and community projects related to literacy studies are arranged and individual tutoring is available.
“Some students are new immigrants, others have been out of school for a long time,” says Carley. “Every day someone says, ‘I didn’t know that’, and gets excited about their learning.”
From phonics to spelling activities to forming sentences and learning the meaning of words, Carley loves seeing the confidence that the course gives to people.
“Marlene learned six new words last week. Tan is forming sentences. Another student is taking out library books. Another is filling out forms.
“But the most beautiful thing,” says Carley, “is at graduation where people stand up and read a speech that they have written. That’s success.”