The PEI Literacy Alliance says literacy needs on PEI are in an emergency situation. Jeff Murphy, Chair of the Board, says the Alliance is to the education system as the QEH is to healthcare. “We can’t do without hospitals, and we can’t do Islanders justice without literacy support.
“For years, we have seen data that says 46 percent of Islanders struggle with the basic literacy required to work and thrive in our knowledge-based, digital society,” says Jeff. “Low education levels lead to low income levels and high healthcare concerns. Early childhood learning is the key to solving that issue over the long term.”
Literacy skills include reading, writing, math, communication, digital, and thinking skills. “Our focus is on those who are most vulnerable,” says Jinny Greaves, Executive Director. “We work with children and adults to help them improve their literacy skills.
“The PEI Literacy Alliance has been highly focused on keeping its doors open because of limited funding, and it shouldn’t be that way,” says Jeff. “We are looking for long-term funding so we can get on with the business of supporting Islanders’ literacy needs.”
Literacy is the key to lifelong learning and a healthy lifestyle
At a recent Alliance Annual General Meeting, Dr. Heather Morrison, Chief Public Health Officer, spoke about the PEI Children’s Report released in 2018.
“The report assesses the wellbeing of children on PEI in terms of physical and mental health, childhood development, and social development,” says Dr. Morrison.
“Our research found that Islanders with lower incomes have the highest rates of heart decease, hypertension, diabetes, and treated mood and anxiety disorders.”
She says the PEI Literacy Alliance helps promote and protect the health of all Islanders and strengthen public health infrastructure. “The Alliance helps children and adults gain decision making skills that help with healthy living and career choices.”
Expanding literacy work in the community
“Each summer, more than 1,200 children from across PEI are referred to our Ready Set Learn Program because they struggle in school,” says Jinny. “However, we only had the capacity to tutor about 800 students in kindergarten to grade six.
“Resource teachers had told us they would refer more students if we did not limit the number we would accept. At the end of each summer, we had hundreds of students still on a waitlist. In 2018, we piloted expanding the program.
The pilot was successful and now this program runs year-round. This past summer, we had 23 tutors working with about 33 children each. This fall we will hire 10 tutors to work with children during the 2019/2020 school year.”
Achievements over the past year
- 821 children gained literacy skills, confidence, and improved attitudes towards learning through 7,000 hours of free tutoring.
- 14 adults improved their literacy skills through 1,500 hours of free tutoring.
- More than 2,000 free children’s books were distributed to families in need.
- Almost $3,000 was awarded to adults who have gone back to school to obtain their GED.
- Many Islanders are now better informed about the economic, political, and social cost of low literacy.
“I want to acknowledge the hard work and commitment of our board and our staff, who continue to impress me with their work ethic and passion in helping our clients,” says Jinny. “Also, we wouldn’t have the impact we do without our paid and unpaid tutors, our advisory committee members, and our business and community partners.
“And of course, a thank you to our many project funders who have invested in our work, and a special thank you to our core funder – the province of PEI.
“While we work to secure long-term core funding, we promise to continue to work effectively and passionately to advance literacy for the people of Prince Edward Island.”
For more information about the PEI Literacy Alliance, call 902-368-3620. Visit www.peiliteracy.ca.
For more about Children’s Report 2017, visit www.princeedwardisland.ca/sites/default/files/publications/pei_childrens_report_web_2017_2.pdf.