01Sep 21

Opinion Editorial – Chief Felix Thomas

0 Comment

Currently one-third of Saskatchewan adults struggle with literacy daily and one-third of Saskatchewan children show up for kindergarten not ready to learn. September 8, International Literacy Day, allows us to reflect on a very important fact: literacy is the cornerstone of development. It leads to better health, better employment opportunities, and safer and more stable societies and families.

Research shows that children’s school preparedness starts at home, very early in life, with young children’s exposure to books, reading, and play activities. School-readiness gaps that begin before kindergarten are very hard to overcome. Literacy in the home prepares children for life outside the home.

Parents who are proficient readers and speakers are best equipped to prepare their children for school, by reading to them, conversing with them, and eventually helping them with homework and interacting with teachers. However, many parents lack the skills to give their children this early academic start. That is why READ Saskatoon helps parents with their own skills and coaches them to share with their children. Strong learning habits are created before they start school.

READ Saskatoon is a safe place to learn – a place where people are supported and welcomed. With the help of trained volunteers, they empower people. One of their family program parents told them, “Some of the skills we learned — like estimating — we didn’t know were important… Now we count and estimate everything!”

Nearly 18 months ago, READ Saskatoon completely transformed their education model to meet the needs of parents facing the Covid-19 pandemic. Their team embraced the challenge and rose to the occasion, creating many new learning resources and new teaching approaches for Zoom and communication applications like WhatsApp.

Parents and clients were receptive. As one parent told them, “The online format worked quite well, especially for our COVID world. This was a great way to learn, grow and connect with some families safely. Thank you for a wonderful program in a time where there are so little options for families.”

Families showed up, with their children, with determination and resilience. They improved their skills, they began reading more often with their children, and they learned to access online resources and learning opportunities for their families.

Our communities are asking for more! We need intensified community literacy resources, supports, and programming throughout Saskatoon and the province. To meet these demands, READ Saskatoon has started a two-million-dollar programming campaign. They are stepping up to meet the next big challenge of our post-COVID world: building educational equity in the context of COVID-19 recovery. Literacy is the key lever of change in our society and adults need to access free, reliable, proven programs that grow skills for themselves and their children.

I couldn’t be any prouder of the READ Saskatoon team for this major accomplishment. In truth, they’d been preparing for this opportunity for many years with innovative ways of engaging adults and families outside the traditional classroom. As one parent told us, “It’s an amazing program. Sameer liked doing something different for a change. Seeing all those kids. And you with reading and activities. Giving him the feeling that there is life outside of home.”

There is no doubt that limited personal interaction, resources, and support have impacted thousands of Saskatchewan families. I ask you to consider ways you can support READ Saskatoon and its work. Whether through donations or volunteering, your involvement is needed more than ever in our post-COVID world.

Chief Felix Thomas, Kinistin Saulteaux Nation &
co-chair READ Saskatoon Learn Together, Grow Together Campaign