The Kenora-Rainy River District has found something it’s better than the national average on. But it’s not really something to be proud of.
According to the 1995 International Adult Literacy Survey, 28 percent of adults here have great difficulty reading. They have very few basic skills to work with text, and most are aware they have a problem.
The national average is 22 percent.
Another 33 percent in the district--seven percent above the national average--have limited skills. They can read but not well. They can deal only with material that is simple and clearly laid out.
Generally, these people do not realize their limitations.
"It’s hard to believe but it’s true," said Mike Anderson, literacy co-ordinator at the local United Native Friendship Centre.
"I don’t know what the figures say," added Barbara-Ann Hicks, literacy co-ordinator with the Valley Adult Learning Association here in Fort Frances.
"[But] I don’t see that there have been significant improvements," she added.
Part of the problem, Hicks noted, was people with literacy problems often feel there is a stigma associated with their disability.
Even when they do decide to get help, some get frustrated when they reach a plateau. But Hicks noted it was normal to hit a plateau in all learning processes before the level increased again.
"We’re moving into such an information age, and if you’re going to keep up, you have to have literacy skills," she stressed. "[But] the bottom line is that there are a lot of people out there who don’t have the basic skills to get to that level."
But Anderson felt the statistics were improving. He noted the number of people seeking help with their reading problems--whether they couldn’t read, spoke English as a second language, or had disabilities--was increasing.
Now they have about 30 people
Part of that was the setting. Because they are a "friendship centre" and offered different programs, Anderson said no one knew who was there for the literacy program.
Mandated to assist native people living in an urban setting, their literacy program didn’t refuse people based on their cultural background.
But the good news is there are two local organizations working to improve those statistics.
And as a way of challenging all residents, and getting them reading, the two are teaming up for a "read-a-thon" this week, with local community clubs pledging their support.
Money raised will go towards the Laubach Literacy Ontario, and the two local organizations.
All people have to do is keep track of their reading hours, outside of work, and call it in to either place by 4:30 p.m. Friday.
"It doesn’t get any easier than that," Hicks laughed.
Prizes will be awarded during a small reception Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon.
The VALA also will be holding its second tutor training workshop Oct. 4-5 from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., being co-sponsored by Laubach Literacy Ontario.
Anyone wishing to register can call Hicks at 274-3553.