Lit­er­acy — the es­sen­tial skill

The Compass - - ORTHTE -

New­found­land and Labrador has lit­er­acy chal­lenge that goes well be­yond the num­bers. The fact is that one of ev­ery two adults in our prov­ince does not meet the de­sired pro­fi­ciency level in ei­ther lan­guage or nu­mer­acy skill. But our chal­lenge goes past the num­bers, to our un­der­stand­ing of lit­er­acy it­self. Most of us un­der­stand lit­er­acy as some­thing which you ei­ther have or you do not have — ei­ther you are lit­er­ate, or you are not. This is quite sim­ply not true.

Each of us pos­sess some level of lit­er­acy skill — and most of us fall within the range of the very low to the highly ac­com­plished. In­creased lit­er­acy pro­fi­ciency along this range con­nects in­di­vid­u­als with bet­ter out­comes in school, em­ploy­ment, in­come and op­por­tu­nity. And like other skills, it is de­vel­oped and en­hanced with prac­tice.

Start­ing at birth, and con­tin­u­ing on throughout one’s life, you can ei­ther build your lit­er­acy skill, or you can let this skill lapse. In the same way that you learn to ride a bi­cy­cle, if you ex­er­cise your lit­er­acy skill, you will mas­ter not only the ba­sics but grow more pro­fi­cient over time. And just as eas­ily, you will grad­u­ally erode those skills if you don’t keep get­ting on that bi­cy­cle, or read­ing that next book.

Septem­ber is the month where many of us turn to school, books and learn­ing. It is also a month for chal­leng­ing us to greater lit­er­acy gains. Septem­ber en­com­passes within it In­ter­na­tional Lit­er­acy Day, Learn at Work Week, and Es­sen­tial Skills Day — dates which all point to­ward the need for a greater un­der­stand­ing of the value and im­pact of lit­er­acy in our homes, in our busi­nesses, and in our com­mu­ni­ties.

There are tremen­dous gains to be made from im­proved lit­er­acy skills. Stronger lit­er­acy skills for our youth in­crease the chances that they will com­plete high school and go on to post­sec­ondary learn­ing. In­creased skill lev­els for adults in­crease the prob­a­bil­ity that they will suc­ceed in find­ing em­ploy­ment, and will ex­pe­ri­ence shorter pe­ri­ods of un­em­ploy­ment should they find them­selves out of work. El­e­vated lit­er­acy skills also con­trib­ute to other sec­tors — more civic en­gage­ment, bet­ter health out­comes, and greater con­nec­tion to fam­ily and community.

There are eco­nomic gains to be mea­sured as well. Among our Abo­rig­i­nal and im­mi­grant pop­u­la­tion, high lev­els of first-lan­guage lit­er­acy skill di­rectly sup­port gains in Canada’s of­fi­cial lan­guages, thereby al­low­ing greater par­tic­i­pa­tion in the econ­omy and so­ci­ety. In­creased skill in the work­place pro­vides busi­ness with a more in­no­va­tive, flex­i­ble and ro­bust work­force, en­abling in­creased pro­duc­tiv­ity while pro­vid­ing em­ploy­ees with op­por­tu­ni­ties for ad­vance­ment.

Mov­ing lit­er­acy for­ward is an is­sue for each of us to take to heart as in­di­vid­u­als, as students, as par­ents, and as civic lead­ers. Our chal­lenge is to come to an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of how deeply lit­er­acy af­fects us, and then to con­sider how we might best ben­e­fit — by pick­ing up that book, or by chan­nelling our en­ergy to make a dif­fer­ence for oth­ers.

Sub­mit­ted by Caro­line Vaughan, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for Lit­er­acy New­found­land and Labrador. She can be reached at the fol­low­ing email: cvaughan@lit­er­a­cynl.com. On the Web, visit: www.Lit­er­a­cyNL.com

Caro­line Vaughan

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