How the library can help you discover the wonder of reading.
Hi, I’m Mark Williams and I’m the Manager of the Adult Literacy Program at Toronto Public Library.
One of my greatest fears in life is using technology. As a complete Luddite, wherever possible I try and avoid embracing new technology. However, I also understand the huge potential for positive change that technology allows so when I was asked to submit a blog on the topic of Adult Literacy, as part of the Strategic Planning process I felt compelled to participate.
I sometimes think that my fear of embracing technology can be equated to the fear that Adults with low literacy must experience when they are presented with the written word. Research has shown that 40% of Adult Canadians do not have sufficiently strong literacy skills to participate fully in our economy.
That is not to say that adults with low literacy are not intelligent. Far from it. Time and time again, the learners in our Adult Literacy Program confound my team by highlighting the various coping strategies they have developed - coping strategies that enable them to cope in the modern world, without the ability to read or write.
What this illustrates to me and my team is that with the right help, these creative, intelligent people are able to achieve even greater success by getting the help they need to develop their literacy skills. In doing so they really are able to reach their full potential.
While it is a shame that this help comes to these adult learners later in life and that they weren’t able to access the help that they needed while at school age, the purpose of our program is to help people to succeed by supporting their literacy development at whatever age they need the support.
Our learners are some of the bravest people I have met. Not only have they had to finally admit to themselves that they need help with their reading and writing skills, they then have to seek out that help. Entering the library for the first time, for people who cannot read must be like entering an Apple store, for me. The concept fills me with dread. And yet our learners have had to embrace their fears. And once they’ve done it for the first time they grow to love the Adult Literacy Program, becoming lifelong customers of the library.
Why is that?
I like to think it’s because we have a dedicated and motivated team of staff and volunteers who regularly go the extra mile to support the learners’ goals. With their commitment to our program the volunteers work one on one with our learners to help them achieve their goals. In combination, the staff and volunteers compassion, knowledge and experience has resulted in strong bonds existing between them and their learners.
But maybe it’s simply because the library is a positive environment for discovering the wonder of reading at whatever age the emergent reader. As a result of which, previous learners in our program now include authors, academics and business CEO’s.
If you or anyone you know feels that you need the support of the Adult Literacy program, firstly I hope you seek out that support by finding out more: Adult Literacy Program at Toronto Public Library
Equally importantly, I hope you join the conversation and share with us your thoughts on how we in the Adult Literacy Program can continue to develop a city of learners.