For Michele Smith, literacy has grown to include more than just one’s ability to read and write.
The co-ordinator for Moose Jaw Literacy Network believes literacy should equip one with the ability to apply those skills – reading and writing – in their daily lives.
“Studies show that the first three years of life have a direct impact on later development and learning and that children who enter school with strong early literacy skills will have more success, confidence and enjoyment in school,” said Smith.
That’s why for years the network has been putting together literacy bags – bags containing educational materials including books and poems by popular authors, resources for parents and activity tools for kids – that they hand out to preschoolers attending schools in Moose Jaw.
The bags are meant to help families model literacy by reading, playing with their children, valuing education and encouraging their children to learn.
“Parents are always looking for tips and things they could be doing and there’s lots of both in the bags,” explained Smith.
According to Smith, 15 per cent of Canadians cannot read or write while 25 per cent have literacy skills.
While literacy levels have been improving, only 60 per cent of Canadians have the necessary literacy skills to function successfully in day-to-day life.
Smith said the Moose Jaw community strives to offer a rich literacy environment and the materials in the bags are just one of the ways it reaches out to families.
Between 340 and 400 bags are handed out yearly in canvass bags that can be re-used by families and teachers.
This year, purchase of the material – both in English and French – was made possible with funding from the Rotary Club, Smith said.
Smith buys the books in bulk through schools, which allows her a good price while at the same time amassing coupons for those schools to purchase more books of their own.
“It’s a win-win situation,” said Smith.
The literacy bags get put together in May and June and are delivered to classrooms at the start of the school year in September.