Practice makes perfect

Literacy week activities focus on improving skills at any age



IQALUIT – For the Nunavut territory to thrive, more of its residents must learn to read.

That’s the message Kim Crockatt is sending out during Nunavut Literacy Week, which lasts from Sept. 30 to Oct. 6.
Crockatt, the executive director of the Nunavut Literacy Council, says literacy must begin at an early age.

“I think it’s really important that parents try and read to their kids or tell stories or sing songs,” she said. “(Parents should) try and encourage that oral development and, if they can, read to their children. If children see that it’s important, that their parents value it, then they’re much more likely to value it themselves and become life-long readers.”

There are no statistics on literacy in Nunavut, Crockatt says, but the government is working to get the territory into the International Adult Literacy Survey, which will begin next summer.

None of the northern territories have ever been included in the eight-country survey because of the cost. Statistics Canada has committed to conducting the English-French adult literacy study in Nunavut next summer, and a plan is in the works to have an Inuktitut study conducted in the future.

“Nunavut’s ability to compete and to develop a skilled work-force and to have a healthy population is directly related to literacy. If people have low literacy levels, they’re much more likely to have health problems,” she says.

It also affects the economy. In Nunavut, she says, people are having difficulty filling positions not only in government but also in the private sector, and the main reason is because many people have low literacy levels.

Starting kids reading at a young age is imperative, she says, but unfortunately many parents don’t have the money to buy books. The literacy council is trying to help those in need by supplying resources.

“Read to Me” kits are given out to new parents through community health representatives. In partnership with the International Board for Books for Young People, a major fund-raising campaign is underway to purchase Inuktitut and brand new, high quality children’s books.

As part of literacy week, events were held across the territory, including a “Read for 15 Challenge,” where people are asked to pick up a book or newspaper and read for 15 minutes. Last year more than 5,700 Nunavummiut participated.

Yvonne Earle, a librarian with the Department of Sustainable Development, is involved with organizing events in Iqaluit. She says the “Read for 15 Challenge” is a way to get people back in practice.

“Just because you learned how to read at one time doesn’t mean you’ve kept your skill level up as high as it was,” she said. “Like any other skill, you have to keep practising for it to remain good.”

Seventeen-year-old Nick Scott is in Grade 12 and works at the Iqaluit library after school as a technician for the library’s Internet-access centre. He is a self-admitted avid reader.

“I like mostly science fiction,” he says.

Reading is important to maintain the skill, and to help with oral skills as well, he says.

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