Reading, writing and arithmetic. We’re taught from a young age that these are the skills that make us literate, but the NWT Literacy Council says it’s actually about much more.
“Literacy promotes community,” says Coleen Hardisty, youth literacy coordinator at the NWT Literacy Council.
“There’s physical literacy and cultural literacy and digital literacy – we’re for promoting literacy where maybe it’s missed otherwise,” she says.
The literacy council is a non-profit charity with a stated mission of supporting literacy and “essential skills programs” in NWT communities. It promotes a more fulsome approach to literacy.
Last week, the council posted an “elephant craft giveaway” on its social media channels that could be used “for all kinds of literacy games,” Hardisty says.
The elephants, which are paper dolls, could be sorted “by colour, by size, you could make up pattern games, or stories about them. All of that is literacy,” says Hardisty.
Charlotte Upton, the council’s family literacy coordinator, says literacy can be embedded in all kinds of programs. Sewing and cooking activities, some of the council’s most popular programs, are based in numeracy and conversions.
“You have to be able to read a recipe and then maybe you have to double it, or half it,” she explains.
Upton says the council aims to help residents feel confident to participate in their communities: to be able to independently fill out a government document for a health card, for example, or go grocery shopping and understand exactly what they’re buying and what’s on their list.
The council would normally sponsor more summer programming, including their Bison Bus – a “literary centre on wheels” that brings books and games to communities on the highway system, but of course Covid had other plans. In addition to the elephants, which Yellowknifers can pick up at the council’s 48 Street office, the organization is offering online resources for Indigenous language learning, career development, puppet making and other games and activities for all ages.
Upton says the council aims to build capacity and facilitate programs, but also guide community members through starting their own programs and provide funding to help bring literacy training around the territory – in whatever capacity that may be.