Funding promotes adult literacy in Columbia Basin

CBAL has just received a piece of a $2.4 million grant from the province to promote adult literacy.

The Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy (CBAL) has just received a piece of a $2.4 million grant from the province to promote adult literacy.

Last Friday, the Ministry of Advanced Education announced a province-wide funding initiative to continue adult literacy programs in several communities, supporting 9,000 adult learners in B.C.

Ali Wassing, executive director at CBAL, says the Columbia Basin’s portion of the funding will be distributed around all of the communities CBAL has a presence in.

“Our piece of (the funding) for adult literacy is roughly $32,000,” she said. “This funding gets distributed throughout community areas like Trail, Castlegar, Nakusp, Kaslo, Salmo and Nelson. It is going all around (the Columbia Basin).”

The money is only part of the funding required to keep CBAL going and Wassing says it will go towards promoting literacy learning programs for both adults and families in the region.

“It supports programs that deal with basic adult literacy, but also seniors’ computer learning programs, some parenting programs and those types of things,” she said. “To support family literacy, there are programs that are geared towards adults and support them in building early literacy in their children.”

Sonia Tavares, community literacy coordinator for CBAL, says the programs geared towards family literacy are vital to ensuring high literacy rates with the next generation of learners.

“We do Mother Goose programs at the libraries in Beaver Valley and in Trail,” she said. “It is a singing a rhyming time for parents and their children to promote early literacy and learning while keeping things fun.”

CBAL relies strictly on government funding and donations to keep running programs, says Tavares.

“All of our programs are free, so fundraising is hugely important to us,” she said.

Receiving funding from the government also opens up opportunities for CBAL to apply for more grants, since $32,000 for the region isn’t enough to keep the group afloat.

“It allows us leverage for other funding,” said Wassing. “We can apply for more based on the fact that we have this funding. It supports us. We can expand on the programs we already provide with this money as a portion. If we only had this, it would not cover any of the programming that we do.”

CBAL is just a couple of weeks away from launching their fourth annual Reach a Reader fundraising drive. Tavares says the campaign is designed, not only to raise money, but to raise awareness on the issue of adult literacy. Money raised in Trail stays in Trail through local programming.

“It is important to know that literacy is lifelong,” she said. “Learning is lifelong and that is our motto. It is something that impacts all of our communities.”

Last year’s Reach a Reader campaign raised $1,500 and supported several different adult programs in the Trail area.

“We offer English classes, we do computer workshops with Facebook, learning how to Skype, how to use Twitter and shopping online,” said Tavares. “We also offer a community learning place, one-on-one tutoring with our english students. We have helped people with support in getting their driver’s license. There is a lot of literacy involved there. People think that all we do is language, but driving does involve learning how to read the road signs. Literacy isn’t just about learning how to read a book.”

The Reach a Reader campaign begins in the Greater Trail Area from Oct. 8 to 10 with volunteers setting up in high traffic areas in town giving away copies of the Trail Times in exchange for donations.

For more information on adult and family literacy programming from CBAL or to donate to the Reach and Reader campaign, visit

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