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Richmond MLA stresses importance of literacy

By Don Fennell

Published 1:00 PDT, Thu July 8, 2021

Province contributing nearly $30,000 to Literacy Richmond initiatives

Most people take being able to read and write for granted, but the stark reality is an estimated 13 per cent of the world’s population can do neither.

It is also notable that as many as 700,000 people in B.C. have significant challenges with literacy—from simple reading to basic math to using a computer.

Recognizing the importance of each, the provincial government is investing in the Community Adult Literacy Program that will see nearly $30,000 directed to Literacy Richmond for its “Learning Together” and “Literacy for Life” initiatives.

"I want to acknowledge and express my gratitude to the organizations and volunteers who deliver literacy programs in our community,” says Richmond South Centre MLA Henry Yao. “I’m also very grateful to Kwantlen Polytechnic University for their ongoing support of these programs. So many of the everyday tasks that most of us take for granted require these skills, and they can be more difficult or even impossible for people who struggle with literacy.” 

Yao points to simply getting a job as one example.

“Even if someone has all the skills that are needed for the position, without reading, writing or basic computer skills, they’d have a hard time finding the job posting and filling out an application or creating a resume,” he explains. “That makes it harder for people to support themselves and their families. Another example is accessing health care. This is especially relevant right now, as we are in the midst of the biggest vaccination push in B.C.’s history (working) to put COVID-19 behind us. Someone lacking literacy skills could have a harder time booking a vaccine appointment or finding the dates and locations of walk-in vaccination clinics. I was very pleased to see that here in Richmond, Vancouver Coastal Health worked with organizations such as MOSAIC and SUCCESS to provide people with language barriers with information about getting vaccinated.”

Yao appreciate that the Community Adult Literacy Program is designed to meet the individual needs of adult learners. For example, many parents may want to improve their literacy skills to find employment, but also want to read with their kids and help them with homework. He notes that the “Learning Together” program is designed to help parents and young children to develop their passion for reading through stories and active play. The “Literacy for Life” program further strengthens adult learners' literacy and numeracy, which has many benefits for their families.

“When parents are more independent in their ability to engage with community resources and services, it allows youth, who are often the family translators, to have more time to focus on their own learning, play and passions,” Yao says. “Both programs are designed to take up a minimal amount of time and limit the interruptions of learners' personal and family life. In addition to direct benefits, both are hosted by Richmond Library, which has a wealth of information and resources to help people get connected to the local community. It is such a fabulous way to utilize informal learning to help families to gain much needed connections and skills for prosperity.”  

In addition to helping newcomers with necessities such as finding employment and accessing healthcare, Yao says literacy programs also help people to feel more confident in their new community. Participating in a small group program with others who have similar experiences can forge new connections and friendships, “which really help people to feel at home and help them thrive,” he says.

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