Leadership on literacy

NationalPost.com – opinion – Leadership on literacy
Published: Monday, April 14, 2008
Kelly Lamrock And Shirley Bond,

Canada’s Education Ministers have come together to take a collective stand and provide leadership on literacy. That begins with being forthright about the issue: Millions of adult Canadians struggle with low literacy levels. People with literacy challenges live in every community in Canada. In fact, many Canadians have trouble with everyday reading and writing tasks such as reading a prescription or understanding a bus schedule.

For those of us confident in our abilities, it can be difficult to imagine the far-reaching effects of low literacy levels, but know this: Literacy is a significant factor that determines how we live.

People with low literacy levels have trouble filling out job applications, and are twice as likely to be unemployed. Literacy skills empower individuals to earn a living wage and pursue their dreams.

People with low literacy levels have trouble understanding the instructions on a prescription bottle. Literacy skills provide people with the information to maintain or improve their health.

And people with low literacy levels may lack the confidence to read to their children and later help them succeed in school. Literacy skills enrich families, helping them flourish.

These factors affect individuals and families, and influence the health, strength and prosperity of our communities, our provinces and territories and our country.

That’s why Canada’s Education Ministers have created a literacy action plan to raise awareness about the importance of improved literacy levels, and to improve literacy skills from coast to coast to coast. This literacy action plan stresses sharing successful literacy policies, research, statistics and data, and teaching resources for learners of all ages.

To start, Canada’s provinces and territories have planned a first-of-its-kind event: the Pan-Canadian Interactive Literacy Forum, to be held April 14-15. The forum will use webcasting to broadcast real-time streaming video and connect 3,500 learners, literacy experts and representatives from the education, nonprofit, business and labour sectors at sites around the country, including Vancouver, Whitehorse, Edmonton, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, Arviat and Saint John, N.B.

Because literacy is so far-reaching, each site will champion an individual theme that contributes to a comprehensive understanding of the literacy challenges and opportunities that exist across the country. These themes include aboriginal literacy, communities, early learning, prosperity, technology and workplace literacy.

Through leading-edge B.C.-proven interactive communications technology, each site has an opportunity to both share its expertise and learn from the other sites as participants from across Canada engage in a single pan-Canadian conversation. To further this, exciting keynote speakers will inspire all participants to unite and address challenges, champion successes and explore strategies. These keynote speakers are world-class literacy and education experts, business and media leaders and celebrated entertainers, including Susan Aglukark, David Asper, Linwood Barclay, Dr. Paul Belanger, Adrienne Clarkson, Charles Coffey, Frank Mc-Kenna, and Dr. J. Fraser Mustard.

The main objective of the Pan-Canadian Interactive Literacy Forum is to lead to innovative ideas sparked by the wealth of voices connected. The forum and the larger literacy action plan are poised to directly improve the lives of millions of Canadians.

We all benefit from stronger, more prosperous communities. The question is, are you part of this important conversation and efforts to increase literacy? You don’t have to attend the forum to participate or help raise literacy rates. In fact, the technology used to facilitate the forum will also be used to leave a legacy of resources online, benefiting educators, learners, literacy providers and all Canadians for years to come. Visit www.Literacy.cmec.ca to learn more, and then get involved in improving literacy in your community.

— – Kelly Lamrock is Minister of Education for New Brunswick and chair of the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC). Shirley Bond is Minister of Education for British Columbia, which is serving CMEC as the lead province for literacy.

Copyright © 2007 CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest MediaWorks Publications, Inc.. All rights reserved.

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