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Wednesday, 21 January 2015 16:18

In honour of Family Literacy Day, people can learn about LEARN

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For those who want to learn about an important literacy group for adults and their families in southeast Alberta, downstairs at the Medicine Hat Public Library on Jan. 24 is an important day.

Family Literacy Day, will be celebrated Jan. 24 from 2-4 p.m. at Medicine Hat Public Library courtesy ABC Life Literacy, the Medicine Hat Library and  Medicine Hat’s Lifelong Education and Resource Network (LEARN).
In honour of Family Literacy Day LEARN is hosting an afternoon of free family fun. There will be activity stations set up in the Library’s Honor Currie Room. Snacks and beverages will be provided. At this event, families will be encouraged to spend 15 minutes a day to learn together.
The celebration is a positive way for people to come in and see what LEARN is all about. LEARN is “dedicated to respectful, accessible, and inclusive life-long learning for adult learners.”
According to its website, LEARN is part of a provincially-funded system called the Community Adult Learning Program. This program enables communities to increase cooperation and co-ordination among leading education providers, increase their capacity to identify gaps and meet needs, and promote and support learning locally to benefit individuals and the community. There are more than 80 Community Adult Learning Councils (CALCs) throughout Alberta.
LEARN is the CALC for Medicine Hat and Cypress County. Alberta Enterprise and Advanced Education supports CALCs, such as LEARN, to provide adult literacy, English language learning and other adult learning programs that are responsive and innovative in meeting adult learning needs.
The LEARN Family Literacy website adds the “programs are free to the participants and are aimedat economically and socially-disadvantaged families. The following groups have been identified as those with disadvantages: families with low income and education, rural Albertans, immigrants, aboriginals, culturally-isolated groups, persons with disabilities, working poor, single parents and individuals with low-literacy skills.”
Reading and literacy is a positive activity and for many people is something which is often taken for granted. Tonya Taylor, LEARN’s family literacy manager for southeast Alberta, is based at the Medicine Hat College.
Eleven community colleges are designated Comprehensive Community Institutions (CCIs).
CCIs serve as stewards of adult learning and the Medicine Hat College is the CCI in the southeast.
“As soon as people hear the word ‘literacy’ they start to clam up — literacy is a positive thing,” explains Taylor. “I suppose with so many adults, it would be difficult. We get a mixed bag of people. There’s doctors and lawyers from other countries who have immigrated here. They can read and write really well in their own country, but they come here ... there’s an added layer of learning.
“Then we have this group who have quit (high) school early with the draw of a high-paying job in the oilfield. We have all of these oilfield riggers. The way the economy is, it’s a boom or bust like it is now.  They come back because they need to do something else and they don’t have the literacy skills. Then there are lots of kids who are slipping through the cracks. They grow older, have families (and) they can’t teach their kids...”
Taylor says they market the family program to those children who are having problems reading and ensure their parents come along.
“For families, we can market that it’s fun for the kids, not realizing it’s not all about the child and that they are learning too,” explains Taylor. “We always have a small time period to work with them.”
Their biggest challenge, is finding enough volunteers who are often past participants. There are eight adults, eight children and three volunteers. They partner with Fifth Avenue Memorial United Church in Medicine Hat. Another partner, the Medicine Hat Women’s Shelter Society — Musasa House also runs a program. There, there are four adults, and five children taking part.
The programs are made possible through the Alberta Innovation and Advanced Education.

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor