Some of this change was generated through the foresight and talents of people like Mary Gordon, creator of the Roots of Empathy program and trailblazer for early childhood literacy development, and Barbara Bates, a proponent of family literacy programs for parents and children together. Both of these remarkable women worked to build awareness and create a surge of support for early childhood and family literacy. At the same time change was generated through government shifts in funding as it went from federal funding through the National Literacy Secretariat for provincial literacy organizations which supported adult literacy in the 1990s to provincial funding which came about through British Columbia’s Olympic Legacies fund intended to create the most literate constituency in the world. A legislative change shortly after also meant that local school boards were required to submit a community literacy plan that involved community stakeholders and interested parties in a collaborative process that resulted in a community plan recognizing local needs and establishing an annual plan to address literacy. Transfers of funds between provincial and federal jurisdictions also impacted language and settlement supports for immigrants. Recently much of this funding reverted to the federal level for oversight and management which has again necessitated changes in program delivery and accountability.
In the Kootenay/Boundary region literacy services were provided in the 1980s and 90s to adults through informal networks sparsely funded through the federal and provincial governments. Small groups of college instructors and volunteers worked with adults to improve literacy. They saw an opportunity to join forces and appealed to the Columbia Basin Trust for funding to form a society and expand services to address the burgeoning family literacy programs and to support early learning. From 2001 the Columbia Basin Trust funding has been the core support for the newly minted Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy which was now able to distribute funds equitably through its vast region so that all communities within the Columbia Basin could enjoy literacy services. This model has worked successfully for 15 years garnering awards for excellence (Exemplary Practice in Rural Community Development in 2002, the Premier’s Award for Excellence in 2005 and the BC School Superintendents’ Award for Excellence in 2008). CBAL has piloted many new initiatives and been at the vanguard of change and innovation in the field.
Of one thing we can be certain: there will continue to be a changing field for literacy. Hold on to your hats!
Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy