Every year throughout the Columbia Basin and Boundary regions, hundreds of citizens work with literacy instructors and tutors to improve their reading, writing, math, English language and computer skills. These adults are seeking out Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy (CBAL, a Columbia Basin and Boundary non-profit literacy organization) programs to improve their skills, knowledge and ability so they can participate more fully in their lives and communities. The program benefits and the learners’ commitment are having a positive impact in towns and villages in the region.
“We work closely with libraries, schools, colleges, businesses, and other community partners to develop, promote and deliver adult literacy and learning services,” said Ali Wassing, CBAL Executive Director. “The Canadian Council on Learning reported that 60 per cent of Canadians do not have the necessary literacy skills to manage their health adequately. We know the health benefits individuals and communities gain when a commitment is made to life-long learning.”
The adult literacy and life skills international survey found approximately 40 per cent of Canadians need greater knowledge and skills to effectively find and use basic written information for daily work and living tasks.
“Research shows us the need for increased adult literacy,” says Betty Knight, CBAL’s East Kootenay regional program manager. “We see the effects on individuals, families and communities, and are committed to helping people change their lives through small group classes, one-to-one tutoring and services at our centres.”
“Our learners gain much-needed skills in reading, writing and speaking English,” said Linda Steward, Creston community literacy co-ordinator. “They also find friendship and emotional support to combat the isolation immigrants experience. It is so rewarding to see them start with little or no English and, within a few years, be working, joining community organizations and settling into a happy full life in our valley.”
Learners expressing their appreciation said:
“Your teacher is very good teacher. I learn lots how to speak, to write and to read English.”
“The ESL class helps me to practice my English and my tutor helps me with many things in my life and I have the conversations with her.”
Selkirk College works with CBAL and the Kootenay Family Place in Castlegar to bring high school upgrading courses to parents.
“This program is such a pleasure to be part of,” said Allison Alder, Chair of Selkirk College’s school of academic upgrading and development. “While instructors help parents brush up on math, learn a new biology concept or polish their writing skills, they can relax knowing their children are cared for nearby. Bringing learning opportunities to people, where and when they are comfortable, is community learning at its finest.”
“The program gave me an opportunity to complete my schooling by providing excellent childcare, career counseling and an awesome tutor,” said Charity Barbour, a past ABE program participant. “But most importantly, I received positive encouragement to follow through with my career plans.”
In Cranbrook, CBAL partners with College of the Rockies to offer the young parent education program. Young parents, who face multiple barriers, can complete their high school education, and, focus on learning new life, work and parenting skills.
“Learners make new and sustaining friendships, support each other, and, with improved self-esteem are empowered to move on to vocational, academic or employment opportunities when they graduate,” said Katherine Hough, Cranbrook community literacy co-ordinator.
Literacy statistics affecting our communities show that 26 per cent of Canadians with the lowest literacy skill levels are unemployed, 80 per cent of those with low literacy skills earn less than $27,000 a year, and 33 per cent of employers report challenges because some staff need better literacy skills.
On October 11 support literacy in your community by taking part in Black Press and CBAL’s Reach-A-Reader campaign. Buy your local newspaper from a volunteer who will be out in the town. All proceeds raised will go to support literacy programs in your community.
By learning together, we will grow strong together.
— COLUMBIA BASIN ALLIANCE FOR LITERACY