PressReader - LStep Channel - FILL THE GAP IN LIT­ER­ACY
If you are read­ing this ed­i­to­rial, it is un­likely you are wrestling with lit­er­acy is­sues. We hope, how­ever, that Bre Mcadam’s story about Ernie Sch­midt, a Saskatchewan farmer and busi­ness­man who learned to write at age 64, raises aware­ness that not ev­ery­one has the skills they need.Ernie was rid­ing in his trac­tor when he heard an ad about tu­tor­ing ser­vices. He reached out for help from READ Saska­toon, and started learn­ing with the help of a vol­un­teer.He wrote this in a let­ter to the or­ga­ni­za­tion: “A few months ago, I, Ernest could not write, I could not spell; I even had trou­ble think­ing about writ­ing or spell­ing. I was un­happy with my­self. But deep down in­side of me, I so des­per­ately wanted to write.”For­tu­nately, he found the sup­port he needed to ful­fil this sin­cere, long-held wish.Ernie is far from alone in his strug­gle. Ac­cord­ing to fig­ures from READ Saska­toon, a third of Saskatchewan adults strug­gle with lit­er­acy. They find ways to work around this dis­ad­van­tage, and this re­source­ful­ness is re­flected in the statis­tic that 65 per cent of peo­ple with lit­er­acy is­sues are em­ployed.Canada-wide, 48 per cent of Cana­dian adults lack the ba­sic lit­er­acy skills to cope with ev­ery­day life and work.We need to blow up any shame at­tached to low lit­er­acy. The brav­ery and re­silience of peo­ple who make their way in the world with gaps in their knowl­edge should be ac­knowl­edged. Ernie ran suc­cess­ful busi­ness en­ter­prises and has raised a beau­ti­ful fam­ily with­out be­ing able to write. This is in­spir­ing.Poor lit­er­acy skills are pre­dic­tors of poor health and other life strug­gles. Not hav­ing lit­er­acy and nu­mer­acy skills makes a per­son more than twice as likely to be un­em­ployed. Jobs that do not re­quire lit­er­acy are gen­er­ally less sta­ble than those with higher skill re­quire­ments.And if you can’t read and write eas­ily, choices in­stantly be­come more lim­ited for hous­ing, jobs and ed­u­ca­tion.A lack of choices can lead to des­per­a­tion and crim­i­nal be­hav­iour. Gov­ern­ment re­search shows that of­fend­ers have triple the num­ber of lit­er­acy prob­lems than the gen­eral pub­lic.There is no ques­tion; bet­ter lit­er­acy skills mean a bet­ter life. The statis­tics may be daunt­ing, but it is im­por­tant to re­spond to the need by en­sur­ing gov­ern­ment fund­ing and strat­egy are in place to meet the need.As Ernie’s story shows, learn­ing to read and write bet­ter can open up mean­ing­ful doors. The fact he learned to write down his life story is a gift to his fam­ily — and be­cause he was will­ing to share his story, a gift to the rest of the com­mu­nity.

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