There’s little doubt people have struggled with literacy ever since written languages were invented. In many cases this was and is due to economic factors such as poverty. Literacy was also a tool that the nobility and clergy used against the peasantry. The use of Latin in church and politics is but one example. As well the written form of many languages can be difficult to master without a formal education.
Literacy rates throughout the world have soared in my lifetime along with better living standards and life expectancy. But the progress has been uneven, across nations and continents, and on an individual level. Literacy in Waterloo Region is an issue too, despite being one of the best educated communities in Ontario.
For a variety of reasons many people struggle with literacy in all or some of its forms. The basics are as important as ever; reading, writing and arithmetic are essential. But there’s also a deficit in technological literacy for many of our citizens. It can be a struggle to operate a computer or smart phone and people are missing out on so much of what the technology offers.
I volunteer with The Literacy Group of Waterloo Region. Our mission is to develop and deliver accessible and effective literacy programs for adults in the Waterloo Region. We believe that every person in Waterloo Region should have access to the resources they need to build skills that will empower them to engage fully in their community.
My present role involves helping people better use modern communications technology.
Imagine not being able to connect to the internet, or not being able to set up your cell phone correctly. How would you talk with friends who are using gmail or texting? That entire avenue of communication would be lost.
Worse still would be having some rudimentary skills to get yourself online only to have your banking info or ID stolen. Viruses are a massive problem too. Even at my skill level the last attack I experienced took me four hours to clean up.
While I applaud government initiatives to teach coding in primary school, the benefits are at least a decade or more away. Our clients need help now.
For a lot of people this is very basic stuff. I set up gmail on two people’s phones the other day. That’s no big deal is it? But I’d bet it matters to them a whole lot more! Conversely I also know a young man who already has good skills but wants more than the menial auto sector work he’s currently doing. He’s forward thinking and wants to get the digital literacy certification we offer.
The Literacy Group provides services in the 3 R’s, job coaching and resume writing too. One of our programs gets people ready to finish high school. Mastery of any one of these things puts our people in so much better a place. And they are free to do more and learn more if they see fit to do so.
This stuff matters. That’s why I volunteer.