Literacy is so much more than words, and READ Saskatoon’s Financial Literacy Coordinator Tammy Isbister sees this in her work everyday.
“There is such a gap when it comes to how all people understand their relationship with money,” says Tammy. “We don’t talk to our kids enough about money, and this has a big effect.”
This is just one example of how the literacy of parents can drastically affect the lives of their children. After many years in the retail, financial and insurance industries, Tammy realized first hand just how important Financial Literacy was, and how closely connected it is to Family Literacy.
“Just like Family Literacy is more than just reading to kids, Financial Literacy is more than just teaching adults how to write cheques,” says Tammy. “It is all so very connected.”
Tammy grew up in a household that didn’t offer her many literacy experiences of any kind. Raised by her elderly grandparents, they didn’t have much time for the simple act of reading. And they certainly didn’t talk about money.
“I learned by trial and error,” she says. “And that’s how most of us learn about finances. Some of us are slower than others, but there is help!”
Tammy loves her work. She feels honoured to be able to help individuals and families with their Financial Literacy, knowing how deeply it can change a household dynamic.
“What we do as adults affects our kids,” she says. “It’s important to learn for ourselves, and teach them too.”
Tammy does her best to set a good example for her young son, Kayden, who is seven. Though, like most parents, she encounters some funny moments along the way.
“I asked him where he thought money came from and he said ‘the bank.’ And when I asked him how it got there, he didn’t know,” she laughed. “I had to explain that Mommy has to work, and that puts money in the bank, and then we get to use it!”
Tammy has a unique family dynamic. Until very recently, her grown son, his wife, and their two children lived at her home with her and her young son. It was a really busy household.
“It sure is an adjustment not having everyone around,” says Tammy, “but this gives me the chance to do the kind of activities with Kayden that I always wanted to provide.”
Beyond teaching Kayden great lessons about Financial Literacy, one of their favourite activities together is reading at bedtime.
“Kayden brings home two books from school every day. Sometimes I read to him, but nowadays he’s old enough to read them both to me!”
Tammy has also been able to give Kayden another kind of literacy that she didn’t get when she was a kid: cultural literacy.
“I am Aboriginal, but I wasn’t raised with any aspect of my culture,” says Tammy. “I always wanted to give this gift to my children, and there are so many opportunities to access culture in our community.”
Every Wednesday, Kayden takes free Pow Wow lessons at the Friendship Centre. At first, Kayden was very shy and not sure about the lessons, but he now has a great sense of pride and accomplishment.
“Everything intertwines,” says Tammy. For Tammy herself, her work at READ Saskatoon brings her full circle.
When she was in her 20s, she was upgrading her GED at SIAST when she and her oldest son got involved with READ Saskatoon’s Family Literacy programs.
She is happy to be back, and is incredibly proud of the work she gets to do alongside families in Saskatoon.
“It is so rewarding to help somebody,” Tammy says, “To see the outcomes of what READ Saskatoon is doing is phenomenal.”
“Our community needs READ Saskatoon.”