As Amanda Beazley argues in an opinion article published in today’s Guardian, almost 50 per cent of Atlantic Canadians do not have the literacy and essential skills required to work and thrive in a knowledge-based, digital society. There has never been a more important time to support adult and family literacy programs.
Yet, funding cuts to essential literacy groups by the previous federal government – will not be rescinded by the current Liberal administration. In Atlantic Canada, where the need to support literacy programs is perhaps the greatest, Literacy Newfoundland and Labrador has already closed its doors, and the P.E.I. Literacy Alliance is just a week away from announcing a similar fate.
Next week, the alliance holds its annual meeting and – barring a miracle or last-minute reprieve - will make the dreaded decision to close its doors. That will throw into doubt children’s tutoring programs, adult learning classes and other projects supported, co-ordinated or administered by the Literacy Alliance.
As hundreds of Raise-a-Reader volunteers crisscross P.E.I. early Wednesday morning, they realize their efforts are more important than ever. Every dollar they raise at coffee shops and other locations goes directly to support children’s and adult literacy. The monies raised today will help some of those programs continue even though the alliance may disappear.
Where governments have failed, ordinary Islanders are stepping up. As motorists pull into a coffee drive-thru this morning and see the Raise-a-Reader sandwich boards, balloons and volunteers ready to swap newspapers for a donation, very few need to hear a reason or explanation. Many have children with them on the way to school. They are already digging a little deeper into their pockets or emptying the coin collection dish on the dashboard. Parents know that every quarter, loonie or toonie is important today.
There is a special Raise-a-Reader section in today’s Guardian, containing stories that are both uplifting and inspiring. They are about Islanders who have bravely gone back to school or class to upgrade their education - to get better jobs, find employment and become better able to support their families. These success stories would not be possible or ever told without literacy programs. Many Islanders just need a little push, a little assistance and a little support to take that difficult first step to seek some help in upgrading their literacy skills. Today’s fund-raiser will help make that happen.
Ottawa remains convinced that providing project-based funding for adult literacy is sufficient. It isn’t. The federal Liberals made clear promises in their platform before the last election to correct the errors on cutting literacy funding made by the pervious government. They have not. Shame on them.
Support from provincial governments, communities, and local businesses are valuable but insufficient. Literacy skills are essential and the foundation for all learning. Why can’t our federal government and MPs realize this?
Raise-a-Reader volunteers, supporters and donors certainly do.