Northwest Territories organizations using more than just books to promote literacy

In the past decade, the concept of literacy has evolved to a philosophy that’s more widely accessible, and technology has followed suit.

That could be why this year’s Family Literacy Day has corresponding themes. 

Family Literacy Day is this Friday, Jan. 27 and the theme—learning in everyday life. 

“There are always ways we can integrate literacy in our lives,” said Community and Family Literacy Coordinator Kathryn Barry Paddock. “If it gets people talking together doing activities together, going for a walk and looking for the beautiful things in nature, matching up socks, or cooking meals, all these things are literacy-based.”

But sometimes, in between everyday tasks, like heading the bank machine or doing laundry, can be routinely interrupted by incoming texts or chat alarms.

This was the idea behind what the Hay River branch of NWT Centennial Library has planned for the day.

They’re challenging patrons to turn off their screens including all phones, TVs and computers for a day.

The Hay River Literacy Society is also taking part, assembling family literacy bags with games, books and puzzles for Aurora College students with young families.

This is aside from literacy challenges promoted in community groups and at school level throughout the year.

The NWT Literacy Society supports events and initiatives like this throughout the territory with a different theme every year.

And as the idea of literacy evolved over the years, so have the themes.

“The concepts or definition of literacy has changed,” said Paddock. “Before, people thought of literacy associated with books and school, but literacy is so much more.”

The last survey to gauge literacy levels in the North took place in 2003; compiled results were released in 2005.

More than 23,000 Canadians took part in the International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey, 818 out of 1286 in the NWT responded to the survey at a 50/50 split between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal.

Survey results showed that although close to the Canadian average, more four out of 10 people in the NWT between the ages of 16-65 face literacy challenges.

The study also cited past cuts to adult literacy programs to the tune of $17.7 million in 2006.

Paddock said the territory is due to complete another survey in the near future.

“We know there are literacy challenges in the North,” said Paddock.

“I feel confident that it is changing but it is something that needs to be ongoing. The great thing about family literacy is that it focuses on children but allows adults to practice their skills by practicing with their children.”

She said it’s this newer philosophy that opens doors for people in which singing, talking, playing music, games, and getting active outside all draw from a foundation of literacy skills.

“I think the way we think about literacy now is a lot more freeing for people,” said Paddock. “If you don’t feel 100 per cent confident with print you can still practice literacy with your family by playing a game or cooking together. It opens up doors for people to share knowledge.”

There is still time to pick up entry forms for Hay River’s “screens off” challenge on Jan. 27.

People can call the NWTLC to seek out events at 1-866-599-6758.