20 May 2020

Literacy in the time of COVID-19

On a good day, those facing literacy barriers struggle, let alone during this time of COVID-19, when multiple areas of crises are amplified at the same time: income, health, job security, school support, childcare, mental health, relationships, and the list goes on. Everyone deserves to be safe during this time, but if you volunteer with READ Saskatoon, work in the community, or provide frontline services, you know this is not the reality of our community. Not everyone is safe.

For the past 7 weeks, we have witnessed an unparalleled coming together of community organizations. These experienced agencies are trained to provide support to people and families who experience homelessness, violence, employment instability, poverty, mental health challenges, and addictions. Although literacy is not in the forefront, it will be soon, and we will be ready.

So, what does ‘ready’ look like? Let me share some of what READ Saskatoon is preparing for:

  • Increased demand for financial literacy information and programming,
  • Increased demand for children’s literacy support,
  • Increased demand for adult literacy supports, especially literacy skills that transition people back into employment,
  • Increased demand for family literacy programs,
  • Increased understanding about the impact of a health crisis on individuals with low literacy skills. At this moment, we have an ideal opportunity to share current information and identify barriers for clients (ex: lack of literacy skills to support school children, lack of technology tools, inability to afford wi-fi to connect). 

As you have probably discovered, every crisis brings the gift of adaptation. It forces us to challenge our assumptions about the way things have been done and challenges us to do things differently. At READ Saskatoon we have been given the gift of “time and trial”. We’ve hosted online workshops and orientations to our agency; we even trained a group of volunteers online. Half our volunteers continue to provide tutoring via phone and computers to adults and children! We are working with CLASSIC (Saskatoon Community Legal Clinic) to provide plain language expertise to their fact sheets. We are creating debtor-creditor fact sheets along with infographic images, while looking at how this information can be rolled into future workshops. Finally, working with community partners, we distributed 1,000 literacy activity kits to Saskatoon families.

So, what can you do for literacy and READ Saskatoon?

  • Support our colleagues such as AIDS Saskatoon, White Buffalo Youth Lodge, Friendship Inn, Salvation Army, Saskatoon Food Bank and Learning Centre, and many others. Let’s get people fed and housed, so they can feel safe to learn!
  • Stay home and cheer us on from the sidelines by boosting our posts through Facebook, twitter, and Instagram.
  • Send us goodwill and positive energy.
  • Save your book donations for when we are open.
  • Become a monthly donor to READ Saskatoon or make an online donation.

We also want to send a special thank you to the READ Saskatoon Board of Directors, and all boards of community organizations throughout our province. When people chose to volunteer for a community organization, they never imagined it would be steering organizations through this crisis! Regardless, Saskatchewan volunteers lead the way with character and perseverance. They are working hard to ensure the viability of organizations like READ Saskatoon. This is not an easy task on top of full-time work and family responsibilities. We see your hard work, and we want to thank you for your commitment.

Literacy is the long game. We know that because our work is grounded in results, like: “I enjoy working with READ Saskatoon because they connect me with people. I’m taking the ABE 12 program to get a better job, so I don’t need to balance 3 part-time ones.” We provide activities to support early learning strategies, to discover new technologies, to find and secure employment, to finish schooling, and to make more confident financial decisions. Literacy was an issue for many adults in our community before COVID. Let’s not forget that moving through this community crisis and beyond, strong literacy skills are an important part of what keeps everyone safe.

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Jennifer Shepherd
June 5, 2020 at 04:16 pm

What an uplifting post--thank you for the valuable work you do. Definitely sending goodwill and positive energy as well as prayers that your volunteers and employees stay safe and well as they deliver support to those who need it.