One-on-one literacy comes to PA

Keely Dakin
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Tutor Learner Connections is bringing one-on-one tutoring in literacy to Prince Albert.

Alice Samkoe, the literacy programs supervisor at Regina Public Library, was invited to come to Prince Albert and help with the instruction of a batch of 20 volunteer tutors on Saturday. The workshop lasted six hours and was hosted at the Multicultural Centre on Central Avenue. She believes strongly in helping to improve the literacy level of Canadians.

Alice Samkoe, the literacy programs supervisor at Regina Public Library, was invited come to Prince Albert to help with the instruction of a batch of 20 volunteer tutors on Saturday.

The Multicultural Centre hosted the workshop and volunteers received instruction on how to assist another person to improve their literacy in one-on-one tutoring sessions.

According to the Canadian Literacy Learning Network website, 42 per cent of adult Canadians between the ages of 16 and 65 have low literacy skills which are insufficient for the workplace.

These numbers include new immigrants to Canada as well as rural communities.

Poverty is reflected in these numbers as well as those who are impoverished often lack the literacy skills needed to enter training programs.

This is made more difficult to achieve when those with low literacy skills have a lower-paying job that they cannot afford to leave to take classes to improve their language skills, said LaVera Schiele, one of two program co-ordinators.

Kim Orynik and LaVera Schiele are both members of the Prince Albert Literacy Network, and are responsible for brining the program Tutor Learner Connections to Prince Albert as its co-co-ordinators

Their first training session brought in the 20 volunteers who attended the Saturday session. With that number they have already nearly met their first goal of 26 volunteer tutors they can partner with community members in need.

“The more tutors we have the learners we’ll be able to provide services for,” Orynik said.

“There’s a great need in Prince Albert,” she added. 

Schiele says the literacy networks fields calls which exemplify that regularly.

“We recently had the water problems in Prince Albert last year, and our office actually had calls. People didn’t know how to read those (boil water) notices. They didn’t know what it meant.”

Everyday reading and writing is necessary for things like School newsletters, medications, prescriptions, food labels, warnings as well as documents, rental applications and much more.

Literacy affects everything in you life and it is something many people take for granted, said Schiele.

“It’s your everyday quality of life,” Orynik said.

The program has one year for funding until December of next year from the provincial government and they will be looking for long-term funding as well.

“I think there’s a new interest in people realizing how important literacy is to day to day living,” Samkoe said.

The Regina Public Library has had a volunteer tutoring program since the late ‘70s. Together with the Saskatchewan Literacy Network and North Cumberland College, they have also developed a tutoring manual.

“We use that now as the standard tutor-training manual” Samkoe said.

That manual was loaded onto the National Adult Literacy Database (NALD) and it has been noticed around the country and beyond.

“It has been downloaded in 60 countries,” she said.

The library also created an online tutor-training tool that allows anyone to go online to the Regina Public Library and teach themselves the basics of how to help someone improve their English.

The intention, Samkoe said, is to encourage self-sufficiency and the capacity of community members to help one another to achieve a better quality of life.

“So if you wanted to help a neighbour, you could go on, by yourself.”

The idea seems to be taking off in more than just Saskatchewan.

“It is being widely used,” Samkoe said.

 She found that it’s been used across locations across Canada and the United States as well as in eight different countries.

 “Right now there are currently 600 people actively using this program and out of that 600, that’s where I discovered that there were 100 locations in Canada, (and) 50 locations in the United States,” she said.

While designed for those whose first language is not English, it could help born-Canadians with low literacy as well.

“Our tool is an ESL (English Second Language) online training tool, but the teachings could be used for anybody trying to help anybody else to learn. So if you had somebody that was a Canadian-born person who simply needed to improve their reading skills and writing skills, this would give you ideas on how to do it,” Samkoe said.

Organizations: Saskatchewan Literacy Network and North Cumberland College, Prince Albert, Regina Public Library Multicultural Centre Canadian Literacy Learning Network National Adult Literacy Database

Geographic location: Canada, United States, Saskatchewan

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