Partnerships Help Nelson’s Literacy Services Grow

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If you stop by the Central Education Centre on a Wednesday afternoon, you'll see a group of students surfing the web and improving their computer skills. The interesting part? Every one of them is 60 or older. Cyber Seniors, a free computer literacy course, is one of many local programs offered by the Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy (CBAL) and its partners.

"Our programs range from Parent-Child Mother Goose to English-as-a-second-language tutoring, and they're in high demand," says Joan Exley, a literacy outreach coordinator with CBAL.

Exley says literacy has been a priority in Nelson for a long time, but joining 2010 Legacies Now's Literacy Now Communities program was a definite turning point. This innovative program, developed by 2010 Legacies Now with support from the Province of B.C., guides local literacy groups through a process to create a literacy plan that meets their community's specific needs.

Exley says the program has helped the community come together to create and implement a literacy plan that is improving services for specific groups, such as youth and adult learners. Working with the school district, the advisory committee has now incorporated the community literacy plan into the district literacy plan, making it easier to identify gaps and provide services where they are needed most.

This collaborative approach has led to a number of partnerships, and one of the most fruitful connections is with the Nelson Municipal Library. The library has recently donated space in its building for a literacy centre.

"This gives us a physical presence in the community, and a central place for people to go for literacy tutoring and other programs," says Exley. "It's going to make a huge difference."

Nelson's literacy advisory committee, which includes representatives from the library, youth centre, school district, college, CBAL, Service Canada and public health, is one of 101 around the province taking part in the Literacy Now Communities program. These groups represent more than 400 communities and neighbourhoods and work with more than 1,000 community partners across B.C.

Exley says the Literacy Now Communities program helped Nelson get the ball rolling, and everyone is committed to keeping it moving in the right direction.

Literacy Now Communities guides communities through a planning process to identify and address local literacy needs. The program focuses on building partnerships, networking and sharing best practices within BC's communities and regions.

There are currently 96 task groups throughout BC working to improve local literacy. Literacy Now Communities is supported by the Province of British Columbia.