Literacy: not just child’s play

It only takes a peek inside the Yukon's Family Literacy Centre to convince you it's a place for children. Located on the second floor of the Canada Games Centre, the walls are covered in colourful paint.

It only takes a peek inside the Yukon’s Family Literacy Centre to convince you it’s a place for children.

Located on the second floor of the Canada Games Centre, the walls are covered in colourful paint and the majority of books on the shelves have pictures.

But on Thursday, Family Literacy Day, the centre’s director announced a shift in focus.

“Support to parents, that’s where we’re really targeting all of our programming now,” said Christine Spinder. “Parents want to know how they can support their kids’ literacy and how they can support their own literacy as well. When they start playing with their kids this way they start realizing they want to do it for themselves as well – because they can. And that’s the biggest message we’re trying to send to people: you can do this at any time of your life.”

Well over half the adults in rural Yukon struggle with illiteracy.

“Literacy is a tool… It crosses all areas of life,” said Spinder mentioning the affects on many other things from reading labels to actually retaining job training.

“And parents are the best teachers,” she added.

In a few months, funding should be secure for a new program called Bonds to Literacy.

It’s a partnership with the Duska’ Family Learning Centre of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation.

It teaches parents.

“Starting with the parents is a good idea,” said Glenn Hart, minister of health and social services.

“There are even many seniors that can’t read and write,” he said. “The parents teach the children, the parents can also teach the grandparents. This gets back to the community because it’s right at home, it’s close, it’s in the family.”

The comfort family brings is a much easier place to start than in a public space or classroom, he adds.

“Literacy is important for everyone, and being able to look after yourself, first, is the number one priority and responsibility of every individual here in the Yukon because the more you look after yourself, the less we have to look after you.”

Whitehorse Mayor Bev Buckway and manager of the Games Centre Art Manhire were also on hand to celebrate literacy.

“We’ve got this wonderful centre here and it’s more than just a sports facility,” said Buckway.

“Our mandate is to provide a healthy community,” Manhire said. “This is a very important component of healthy social and individual development”

Since the Family Literacy Centre has been open, the number of people using the Canada Games Centre has increased by 15,000 per month, Manhire said.

The demand is massive and to simply keep up with it has been the biggest challenge this past year, said Spinder.

The Family Literacy Centre was established through the federal Northern Strategy Trust and has enough cash to run for two years.

Now the goal is to figure out how to keep the centre running past October 2011, Spinder said.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

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