Maple Ridge literacy program needs volunteers

Funding from the province has dropped by about $6,000 this year.

The adult literacy group in Maple Ridge is still struggling for funding, and needs volunteer tutors to continue doing its work.

Elaine Yamamoto, the literacy outreach facilitator for the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Community Literacy Committee, said funding from the province has dropped by about $6,000 this year, which is significant in a budget of approximately $30,000, from various funding sources.

The non-profit group has to stretch its funding, and Yamamoto said it is looking for volunteers who will commit to one-on-one tutoring for adult learners in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows. Much of the funding is used to train volunteers.

The range of need varies from client to client.

“Adult literacy can be whatever the adult wants,” Yamamoto said. “They may want to be able to write emails to their grandchildren, be able to read recipes, or get support for a course they are taking.”

According to the Canadian Literacy and Learning Network, 42 per cent of Canadian adults between the ages of 16 and 65 have low literacy skills. And it can hold them back. Of the people who test lowest for literacy, only 20 per cent are employed.

“There is still a stigma attached to coming forward with low adult literacy,” said Yamamoto.

“They can start where they need to start, whether it’s learning ABCs, or secondary accreditation.”

She said much of the demand comes from the ESL community.

Volunteers with the literacy committee are trained, and are asked to make a one-year commitment. The opportunity to volunteer is open to anyone, provided they have a good grasp of English reading and writing skills themselves.

Yamamoto said the committee provides significant services to the cities it serves. It runs ESL groups and book clubs. The Learning Room at the Ceed Centre offers drop-in literacy services on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings. There, people can get help filling in forms, filling out their taxes or other literacy-related support

The committee is in a state of change, as it deals with demands for funding. The group also had its co-chairs resign this year, and has a new chair in Lynn Easton – a writer and editor with a passion for adult literacy, said Yamamoto.

The provincial government recently announced a grant of $8,427 “to provide residents of Maple Ridge with the literacy skills they need to participate in B.C.’s growing economy.”

That is a portion of the $30,000 in funding the group has.

“Community adult literacy programs deliver training close to home,” said Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA Doug Bing. “Our government wants to make sure all British Columbians have the skills they need to find rewarding careers.”

The grant comes from $2.4 million government has invested in community adult literacy programs in 75 B.C. communities in 2015-16.

• Anyone interested in volunteering can contact Yamamoto at 604-721-3738, or email facilitator@communityliteracy.ca.

For more information about community adult literacy programs, visit: http://www.aved.gov.bc.ca/literacy/welcome.htm.