Lit­er­acy in Ac­tion teach­ing the ABCS of com­mu­nity-based learn­ing

Sherbrooke Record - - FRONT PAGE - By Gor­don Lam­bie

Lit­er­acy in Ac­tion (LIA) started off its fam­ily lit­er­acy week celebrations on Wed­nes­day night with a night of games, snacks, and so­cial­iz­ing. Started Wed­nes­day night and con­tin­u­ing un­til Satur­day, the lo­cal com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tion is host­ing a se­ries of events meant to high­light the many dif­fer­ent ways that it works to pro­mote lit­er­acy of all kinds.

“Our man­date is to help peo­ple de­velop and build on nine es­sen­tial skills” ex­plained Joanna Bate­man, Di­rec­tor of LIA, list­ing those skills as read­ing, writ­ing, oral com­mu­ni­ca­tion, nu­mer­acy or math skills, crit­i­cal think­ing, com­puter use, con­tin­u­ous learn­ing, work­ing with oth­ers, and the abil­ity to use

doc­u­ments. “We all have skills to learn and prac­tice.”

Bate­man de­scribed the fam­ily lit­er­acy week ac­tiv­i­ties as a plat­form on which to open up the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s head­quar­ters in Len­noxville to the Eastern Town­ships com­mu­nity. Lit­er­acy in Ac­tion, she ex­plained, is mov­ing from a model of oneon-one sup­port for English lit­er­acy skills to one where that same sup­port is drawn from a broader com­mu­nity. In or­der to foster com­mu­nity-based teach­ing and learn­ing, how­ever, the group first needs to strengthen its con­nec­tion to that com­mu­nity.

Not­ing that the LIA of­fice on Con­nolly Street in Len­noxville is not very large, the di­rec­tor said that a se­ries of dif­fer­ent ac­tiv­i­ties spread out over a cou­ple of days seemed like the per­fect way not just to high­light the di­ver­sity of ways that the or­ga­ni­za­tion sup­ports learn­ing, but also to have an open house in the small space with­out over­crowd­ing it.

“I’ve al­ways been re­ally in­ter­ested in cre­at­ing learn­ing en­vi­ron­ments in non­class­room set­tings,” Bate­man said, ex­plain­ing that she wants to help break down the stigma in today’s so­ci­ety that ex­ists around peo­ple with low lit­er­acy skills. “It is im­por­tant that Lit­er­acy in Ac­tion is not per­ceived as a place just for peo­ple with low lit­er­acy (...) Ev­ery­one is a learner and ev­ery­one can be a teacher.”

Al­though the events of this week, in­clud­ing an arts and crafts event, movie night, and sto­ry­telling ac­tiv­ity, have been more fam­ily friendly, LIA’S di­rec­tor pointed out that the or­ga­ni­za­tion is specif­i­cally funded as a sup­port for adult learn­ers.

“We’re like an af­ter-school pro­gram for adults,” Bate­man said, ex­plain­ing that the or­ga­ni­za­tion only pro­vides sup­port and no of­fi­cial cer­ti­fi­ca­tion to its users. That be­ing said, how­ever, she pointed out that as many as 6 in 10 English speak­ing peo­ple in the Eastern Town­ships have low lit­er­acy skills and could po­ten­tially ben­e­fit from the ser­vices be­ing of­fered.

Get­ting to know those ser­vices is a big part of the idea be­hind the open house ac­tiv­i­ties.

“Peo­ple might know they need help but then not know how to go out and get it,” the di­rec­tor said, not­ing that a per­son who came to visit the or­ga­ni­za­tion with a friend to watch a film or play a game is then has an op­por­tu­nity to learn more about the ways that Lit­er­acy in Ac­tion might be able to help. Even if the per­son in ques­tion doesn’t have need of the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s ser­vices, Bate­man also pointed out that, be­ing a non-profit and vol­un­teer driven ini­tia­tive, lit­er­acy in ac­tion is al­ways look­ing for new peo­ple to help out.

“With­out vol­un­teers we don’t have a project,” she said.

Along with the Com­mu­nity Learn­ing Cen­tre (CLC) project, Lit­er­acy in Ac­tion is one of only two projects in the en­tire re­gion that re­ceives fund­ing specif­i­cally for ser­vice to the An­glo­phone com­mu­nity. Work­ing in partnership with the CLCS, Bate­man said that she is work­ing on hold­ing “pop-up lit­er­acy cen­tres” through­out the Town­ships in or­der to help bring the ser­vices of the pro­gram to the peo­ple who need it, no mat­ter where they are.

GOR­DON LAM­BIE

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