Adults who have difficulty with their basic literacy skills don’t look any different from the rest of us. They don’t generally admit to this struggle and they have often developed ways to “fake it”. Since approximately 1 in 4 Canadians struggle with literacy skills below a functional level you almost certainly know or regularly encounter people who are struggling with some aspect of literacy. They usually give a variety of reasons for why they can’t or won’t participate in activities that would require them to use literacy skills they don’t have or that they struggle with.
They may be asked to fill out forms and say they “forgot their glasses” or that they will take the form away and bring it back - but never actually come back. Sometimes they may even read out a piece of text almost perfectly and not “remember it” when really they just didn’t understand it.
The average person will not be able to quickly discern the literacy level of the adults with whom they are in contact. This is why it is so important for us not to assume we know the literacy levels of those we interact with. We can add a great deal of undo stress to someone by assuming they are at a level they are not.
What about you? How are your literacy skills?
Did you know that basic math and technology skills are now considered literacies? We need skills in math (or numeracy) and with computers, iPads, etc. (digital literacy) in order to function in the world today. Do you struggle with basic skills in these areas? Can you search for employment online? Do you know how to attach a resume to an email? Can you calculate a 15% tip? Read a bus schedule?
Literacy is a skill on a continuum. People don’t fall neatly into two categories: literate or illiterate. We are all stronger or weaker in different areas and we can all benefit from improving our literacy skills.
Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy and other community literacy organizations across the province work with people who want to improve their literacy skills. People come to us for many different reasons:
· They have been getting by in the same job for years but now they are faced with having to get a new job and their literacy/essential skills just won’t allow this.
· Their children are at a level in school where they can no longer help them with their homework.
· They have a mild learning disability that wasn’t severe enough to get them help so they slipped through the cracks in school but now find they do not have the required skills to continue their post-secondary education or join the workforce.
Whatever the reason, it can be stressful, limiting and very isolating not to have the skills expected of you in our information and technology rich world. Help us to help those who may need support by spreading the word about how common it is to struggle with literacy skills and how we can help. Share the information with everyone. You don’t have to decide who might want to improve their literacy skills and who won’t. You never know who might need it!
Community Literacy Coordinator
Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy – Elk Valley