The changing face of literacy in Tumbler Ridge

Trent Ernst, Editor

It’s Thursday morning, and a half a dozen people from all walks of life around Tumbler Ridge have gathered in the New Life Assembly Church’s basement kitchen to create comestibles with coordinator Colette Ernst.

While this might seem like any culinary class, the Tumbler Ridge Community Kitchen, is a part of Northern Light College’s Community Literacy Program.

And while the focus is on the food, Ernst says underpinning the course is the idea of literacy. Not necessarily learning to read, but all sorts of area of understanding. “That includes numeracy,” says Ernst. “It includes nutritional information. How to read labels and how to understand it. Recipes require a knowledge of fractions. Of conversions. The average person probably doesn’t know how to convert metric to imperial, and if they’re not computer literate, they might not know how to search for that information online.”

In addition to the Community Kitchen, there are a number of other initiatives on the go, designed to improve literacy in town. Most of those programs are spearheaded by new coordinator Taryn McGuire.

McGuire says the whole point of the programs is not to teach everyone a standard curriculum, but to teach these people how to be successful in their everyday life.

“It’s about having a community that cares about each other, a community where you’re wanting the best not just for yourself but for others, and taking a role in that. We can do this collectively as individuals or as organizations. The library has been really helpful. Having a community where all members are active, with a higher level of self esteem, independence, and confidence. That’s the overall goal of the program.”

For some people, it is learning to read. McGuire tells the story of one middle aged person who has always wanted to be able to read comic books. “All his friends read comic books, so he’s working with a tutor learning in a more traditional model.”

Other people are looking to become more computer literate: how do I organize these pictures of my grandkids? She’s also working in a one-on-one situation. But on Tuesday we’re starting up a ‘tea and laptop’ program at Willow Hall. It’s not a classroom situation, it’s friends getting together, building relationships and learning these skills.”

Also in the process is a Conversation Circle Program. “It’s a social gathering, we’re having fun, and it’s based on games. We’ll be playing games and sharing. Traditionally these are more for people learning English as a Second Language, but it’s open to everyone.”

McGuire is also putting together a TR Talks program, based on TED Talks. “It’s a way for people to get together meet new people, build relationships, but also get outside of their comfort zone, sharing tips and ideas.”

Starting in January, says McGuire, there will also probably be a series of budgeting workshops.

Ultimately, says McGuire, she hopes everyone will benefit from it.

“To have the academic improvement is great, but the personal improvements is more important. If you’re not feeling confident in yourself, then maybe you’re limiting your involvement in the community. Hopefully these people will be more aware and interactive, willing to see the community as a team, working together collectively to make the community better.”

McGuire says right now, she’s not only looking for people to learn, but people with skills they are willing to share: writing, reading, math and computers specifically.

If you are interested in helping, please contact the college at 250-242-5591.