Literacy Connects Us to Community

September is Literacy Month and this year the theme is literacy connects us!

Literacy helps keep us connected to our community. It helps us navigate activities and services, and helps us take advantage of available opportunities. Using transportation, accessing health care, searching for a job, enjoying community recreation activities, and voting in elections are examples of activities where literacy plays a role.

Connecting People to Community with Literacy

How can we use literacy to keep people connected to community? We can increase the literacy skills of community members. And this is the work that Decoda supports. You can see formal and informal adult and family literacy programs and activities throughout communities, in many settings, for various age groups, offering training in many formats. For literacy learning opportunities in your community, contact the Literacy Outreach Coordinator in your area.

We can also use our understanding of literacy challenges to design community services, resources and environments that are accessible and inclusive of all community members, including those with lower literacy skills.

Designing with Literacy in Mind

In 4 key ways to engage with low-literacy communities online, Sally Hussey outlines key steps to being more inclusive in the online world. These tips are also helpful in the physical world.

  1. Use plain language. Choose simple words with clear meaning, use a consistent style, avoid jargon, and be mindful of the nuances of language, such as figures of speech. For help writing in plain language, have a look at the resources listed here available from the Decoda Literacy Library.
  2. Use video and audio. A mixture of media can help with comprehension and engagement. Create your own videos or find quality videos that complement your topic. Find helpful advice in Mind shift teachers’ guide to using videos. Also, consider using slower pace audio recordings of written materials. Did you know The Westcoast Reader newspaper offers audio recordings of online articles at a regular and a slower pace?
  3. Use infographics and images. Using Visuals to Boost Learning talks about how combining visuals with words helps people learn. Images allow time for language processing and help people see what you mean. Colour can communicate emotions, such as red means danger. Here are some resources to help incorporate visuals.
  4. Use digital storytelling. Digital storytelling is a simple way for people to tell a personal story. This is a great format for all members of the community to participate in activities such as testimonials.

Taking it further

Here are more tips to help create an accessible community environment:

  • Demonstrate diversity. In the items you buy or produce, include materials that reflect the diversity of the community. This can include newspapers, magazines, signage or posters. People are more likely to engage with your materials if they see themselves in them.
  • Translate. For English Language Learners, it’s helpful to provide materials in multiple languages.
  • Test. Before publishing, show your materials to a selection of people in your intended audience.
  • Train. Invest in staff training to recognize and support those with low literacy, low levels of English, and accessibility challenges like physical or mental impairments.
  • Communicate. Keep up conversations about lifelong learning in your community. Encourage and help people access adult literacy programs at all community facilities including libraries, community centres, and schools.

More resources

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