Almost 50 per cent of Islanders struggle with literacy

Brian McInnis bmcinnis@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on January 27, 2013
Madison Gagne, Angela Warick and her sister Elizabeth, take time out for some reading in the reading tent during the family literacy day Saturday in the Confederation Centre Art Gallery.
Guardian photo by Brian McInnis

Nearly half of all Islanders have low literacy levels and that means they are ill-equipped to deal with today’s complex world.

Literacy refers to the knowledge and skills needed to understand and use information from text, such as news stories, editorials, poems and fiction. It is the most commonly understood definition of literacy, but there is also numeracy, which is the ability to reason and to apply simple numerical concepts.

Basic numeracy skills consist of comprehending fundamental mathematics like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Studies indicate that Islanders struggle more with numeracy than reading and writing.

There are many different levels of literacy, but there is a “benchmark level” that people need to be at in order to function fully in life and about half of Islanders have those skills and half do not have them.

Parents can assist their children with these skills by spending 15 minutes a day helping their children learn these skills, said Jinny Greaves, of the P.E.I Literacy Alliance. She co-ordinated family literacy day activities in Charlottetown Saturday to help celebrate national Family Literacy Day Sunday.

“Fifteen minutes of learning is all families need to do every day to really make a difference in their children’s literacy,” she said.

The Confederation Centre Art Gallery hosted the event that the literacy alliance billed as “15 minutes of fun” and to that end there was music, face painting, a puppet show, computer and art games and of course reading, Greaves said.

She explained that literacy does not just involve reading and writing which are considered the hard skills, but also the soft skills that involve thinking and communicating to be able to express ideas. The earlier parents get their children involved in learning theses skills the better off they will be later in life, Greaves said.

“Early on you can start with finger play, singing and rhyming and when kids get older and they start to understand print then you can do readings or write songs together…it does have to be a book that’s only in school.”

She said the key is to find what kids are interested in and if that is reading online that’s fine.

“Reading online is still reading so I think the key is to find what they are interested in and if they want to read on the computer then find something on the computer that they can read…kind of meet them where they are at because it does not have to an actual hardcover book for them to be practicing literacy.”