This month, literacy will be high on our social agenda. September is Literacy is Life Month in B.C. In the coming weeks, government, businesses and non-profits will work together to support literacy initiatives across the province.
Literacy Month in B.C.
On September 8, the 50th anniversary of UNESCO’s International Literacy Day, illiteracy is a social challenge that transcends borders. Thankfully, non-profits can help communities overcome this challenge. During Literacy Month in B.C., we’ve highlighted a few organizations that use literacy to empower individuals and communities.
What is Literacy?
“Literacy is the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning to enable an individual to achieve his or her goals, to develop his or her knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in the wider society.” – United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Decoda and the Literacy is Life Campaign
According to Statistics Canada, over 500,000 people in B.C. have significant challenges with literacy. As the only province-wide literacy non-profit in B.C., Decoda is committed to creating a future where everyone has the skills they need.
The Vancouver-based organization helps over 400 communities by raising funds that enhance the lives of families, adults, seniors, and youth. To date, it has worked with community partners to raise over $8 million to improve provincial literacy rates and has helped more than 700,000 people along the way.
In 2016, Decoda’s Literacy is Life campaign was a success. Twitter-trending hashtag aside (#LiteracyisLife), the organization raised $20,000 for B.C. literacy programs last September. This is the second year it has partnered with CBC News, encouraging British Columbians to share their stories and inspire readers about the importance of literacy. With unique fundraising tactics like team trivia challenges and purple socks, Decoda plans to increase literacy and learning skills in B.C. for years to come. This interactive map shows locations of Decoda Outreach Coordinators and literacy organizations in the province.
According to Statistics Canada, over 500,000 people in B.C. have significant challenges with literacy.
Room to Read’s Global Literacy Project
Room to Read is an international non-profit organization with an ambitious goal: to eradicate child illiteracy in low-income countries. The charity has chapters in the U.S., Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada (Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver).
The organization helps children develop a habit of reading in ten countries across two continents by providing instruction in local languages. Due to book shortages in these countries, Room to Read has published thousands of its own books. It is committed to hiring local authors, illustrators, and publishers to maximize community benefit.
Room to Read is the brain-child of former Microsoft Executive John Wood. In 1998, Wood travelled to Nepal and witnessed first-hand the lack of educational resources at elementary schools in the area. His mission was to return with enough books to fill one library. The rest, as they say, was history. Wood eventually quit his job at Microsoft and founded a charity called Books for Nepal. He later met Room to Read’s CEO, Erin Ganju, and they worked together to make Room to Read an official organization in 2000.
Since 2000, 11.5 million children have benefited from Room to Read’s global literacy program. The organization has trained over 10,000 teachers and filled the shelves of over 17,500 libraries. None of this would have been possible without the organization’s passion and commitment for social good. Moving forward, the founders aim to reach an additional 5 million children by 2020.
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The following non-profit organizations are focused on improving literacy in B.C.:
Victoria Read Society | Victoria
A community-based organization that helps children gain literacy and essential skills, including reading, writing and mathematics. Volunteers support teachers in education programs and assist with bookkeeping, administration, social media, event planning and logistics.
Literacy Now Cowichan | Duncan
Offers eight literacy programs covering adult literacy, literacy initiatives for Trades (LIFT), workplace essential skills, english as a second language, and financial literacy.
Literacy Central Vancouver Island | Nanaimo
Promotes, encourages and enhances literacy skills for children, adults, families and in the workplace by recruiting and training Volunteer Literacy Tutors/Mentors.
Literacy Alberni | Port Alberni
Provides adult and family literacy programs and serves as the immigrant settlement and welcoming centre for Western Vancouver Island.
Salt Spring Literacy Society | Salt Spring Island
Builds awareness and collaborative partnerships to improve literacy on Salt Spring and the other Southern Gulf Islands. On September 8, this nonprofit is hosting an Open House to celebrate literacy.
Books for Me! Literacy Foundation | Vancouver
Distributes books to families who do not have the means to buy children’s books. Children choose their own book to take home and build their libraries for free. Volunteers are asked to donate books, participate, or host a book drive.
ONE TO ONE Literacy Society | Vancouver
Provides free one-to-one tutoring between trained volunteers and elementary school students during normal school hours. Volunteers set aside 2 to 3 hours a week to help young readers develop a habit of reading.