Written by: Samra Admasu
I recently attended my first Decoda (BC’s literacy network) conference which was in Richmond BC this year. I did not know what to expect. My first impression was of a strong sense of community in the literacy field. It felt like a reunion among participants. I witnessed many friendly interactions between participants who knew each other or who’d heard about each other’s organization. But Decoda also provided a warm, welcoming environment for those who were new to the literacy community like me.
The Adult Literacy Research Institute (ALRI) held a booth with information about our work. My role was to inform people about who we are and what we do. In addition to presenting ALRI information, I also attended a number of sessions throughout the two-day conference. As part of a research team my other objective was to note my experience at the event from the perspective of a person who is relatively new to the literacy field. So here are my notes from my experience and the sessions I attended, or five things I learned from the Decoda Literacy Conference:
1. If there is a will there is a way. Perry Smith and Sharon Crowley from the Literacy Matters Association of Abbotsford discussed the process of creating an Aboriginal community library. The association develops programs that focus on adult and Aboriginal literacy. In partnership with community members they identified a need to increase the literacy potential of Aboriginal families in the community because very few Aboriginal families were utilizing library services in Abbotsford. As a result of partnerships and community support, the Ray and Millie Silver Aboriginal Library was created to provide Aboriginal literacy resources to the community. Many Aboriginal families now come to the library with much interest to the variety of resources available. The initiative demonstrates how a community can work together to address their own needs.
2. Rob and duplicate. The Tri-Cities Early Childhood Development (ECD) committee presented a number of successful literacy initiatives driven by community collaboration. The committee aims to create a sense of community by addressing and removing barriers experienced within the community. One of their initiatives was to create a community resource map that provides a list of locations of literacy programs, support, and information for adult learners and families.
Another initiative was Family Learn and Play which is an initiative by the school district and the local Coquitlam Centre mall. They hold regular craft and stories events at the mall where a librarian also volunteers to host a story-reading session.
The session illustrated how collaborating with the community helps individuals grow collectively and how collaboration helps to develop programs that address the community’s needs. The Tri-Cities ECD committee presented these initiatives to inspire other programs in the hopes that we share these ideas—that we “rob and duplicate” —that we take what works elsewhere and reproduce it in our own communities.
3. Literacy can save your life. WorkSafe BC held an informative session discussing the link between safety and literacy. They presented resources available for young and vulnerable workers to understand their rights as workers. When employees are misinformed about their rights they are at higher risk for injury, they lack stable employment, and can expect low wages. The organization emphasized the importance of employees fully understanding workplace safety policies and procedures.
4. Knowledge is wealth. The Family Services of Greater Vancouver held a session on their financial literacy program. They assist those who do not have access to financial information and they teach how to manage money. The aim of the program is to increase confidence and knowledge in daily money management. They hope to empower individuals by providing tools for and knowledge of financial literacy.
5. Legalese can be translated free of charge. The Legal Services Society of BC presented a range of resources that provide legal information and services to the public. Their aim is to bridge the gap between the community and the legal system. For example, Clicklaw is a great site where you can find current information on law and legal services. The information is delivered in plain non-legal terminology which makes it easier for people to access and understand the information they discover.
The Decoda literacy conference was a great experience and I hope to attend next year. Click here to see Flickr photostream from the event provided by Decoda.