Literacy is the bedrock of lifelong learning and is fundamental to the preservation of free expression, says Mira Clarke, the executive director of Action Read Community Literacy Centre.
The centre will host a celebration of International Literacy Day on Thursday, Sept. 8, joining a global movement to foster literacy and numeracy everywhere.
“We’ve done a lot of soul-searching around trying to get our message out further and wider in the community,” said Clarke in an interview. “This is an opportunity to highlight this issue, and it is at a time when a lot of people are starting to think about school and education again, so in that sense it is a good time.”
PEN Canada will be the guest of honour, and a highlight of the event will be an in-person conversation with an important writer in exile. The writer’s name is not being made public for security reasons. The writer has experienced a great deal of persecution in their homeland.
Action Read learner Laurie Johnson will share the story of how literacy transformed his life, and poet and University of Guelph philosophy professor Karen Houle will speak on freedom of speech in Canada.
Clarke said literacy enhances the capacity for critical thinking – for comprehension, analysis, and critiquing what we read and hear, making one better able to discern truth from falsehood. While there is an inherent voice of authority in the written word, it is not always truthful.
Literacy fosters self-understanding and self-reflection, and helps one question inequalities and facilitate social change, she added. Literacy facilitates a more active participation in society, including in the electoral system. Independent thinking and decision-making depend upon it.
International Literacy Day celebrates literacy as a foundation of lifelong learning, and for its power to change lives, something witnessed at Action Read on a regular basis, Clark said. It enhances employment opportunities, general health and well-being, and enables a more active community life.
This is the first time Action Read has celebrated International Literacy Day. It takes place on the evening of Sept. 8, from 7-9 p.m. at Studio 404, at 404 York Road in the city. Admission is free, and open to anyone interested in literacy, social justice and freedom of expression.
PEN Canada champions the change-making power of stories, and their capacity to reveal the inherent dignity of people and the complexities of human experience.
A nonpartisan organization of writers, it works to defend freedom of expression as a basic human right, at home and abroad. The organization assists writers living in exile in Canada, fights censorship, and helps free persecuted writers from prison.
Action Read Community Literacy Centre is a Guelph-based charitable, volunteer-driven organization dedicated to improving the lives of adults and families through free and accessible literacy and numeracy programs. Visit www.actionread.com to learn more about what it does.
“We see a very steady request for service through our organization,” Clarke said, speaking of the need for literacy programs locally. “We’re getting more requests for programs that are time-bound and employment focused, with a very clear learning outcome related to an employment goal.”
The organization is seeing more youth, particularly those that face multiple barriers and are at-risk, and are not flourishing in the educational system, Clarke added.