Making Literacy Fun

ECF grant helps Learning Centre Literacy Association continue providing literacy training to adults during the pandemic

Learning to read and write as an adult can be a daunting enough challenge without a pandemic to navigate. So, when COVID shut down the Learning Centre Literacy Association‘s classes, programs coordinator Jayme Wong knew she was going to have to get creative to keep the Learning Centre’s students engaged.

Drawing from a diverse cross-section of Edmonton, ranging from newcomers to the city, to seniors taking the leap to learn, to people affected by homelessness, many of whom are still in the early stages of literacy, the Learning Centre faced particularly unique challenges when it couldn’t open its doors.

“We went from classes of 20 to 25 to probably 10 on good days,” says Wong. “It was really difficult to get a hold of some students, because they often don’t have access to digital tools, especially with libraries closed.”

Though they couldn’t reach everyone, they could try to make the best of it for the students they were in touch with. Wong turned to a hit from the organization’s past to try to make the prospect of learning in the midst of a pandemic not just possible, but fun.

“I thought that having something really light and carefree was something that people needed in these times,” explains Wong.

With a $10,000 grant from Edmonton Community Foundation’s (ECF) COVID Rapid Response Fund, Wong restarted Reader’s Theatre, wherein adult learners perform plays — script always in hand — as a way to help break the ice and keep the prospect of reading light and enjoyable.

“Reader’s Theatre is a wonderful program serving community members who are often overlooked,” Nneka Otogbolu, ECF’s Director of Communications and Equity Strategy, says. “We’re thrilled that this grant is helping the Learning Centre Literary Association continue its important programming.”

As for the Learning Centre, they found Readers’ Theatre did have the effect of lifting everyone’s mood, if only because they got to shake off the heaviness of day-to-day COVID life and let their imaginations run wild.

“We were performing a BBC Dracula play from the ’50s, and one of our students was from Romania. He jumped at the chance, and he really embodied the role,” recalls Wong.  “He was so into it, he really gave permission to get into it themselves, and it was one of our most fun experiences. I think it really gives people the chance to be someone else. A lot of the time, the people who access our services … they don’t really get a chance to kind of have fun and be silly.”

Learn more about ECF’s COVID-19 response.