Penny Parker (left) has tutored Bryant Moncrief since August at the Victoria Literacy Connection. Nicole Crescenzi/VICTORIA NEWS

Reading between the lines: the many roles of the Victoria Literacy Connection

Saturday fundraiser to help volunteer-run organization teach people to read, write and more

Bryant Moncrief leans over his book, carefully tracing lines of text with his index finger.

His tutor, Penny Parker, looks on and smiles; she’s been tutoring him in reading for nine months, though he’s been coming to the Victoria Literacy Connection (VLC) – formerly Literacy Victoria and the READ society – for two years.

“It’s been a good experience,” Moncrief says. “I’ve been improving my reading and it gets a bit easier to read stuff that I couldn’t before, like menus at restaurants or paperwork from the government.”

When he was young, he didn’t realize the important of reading. “I didn’t really push myself as hard as I should have when I was younger. But I’m trying now.”

Parker, surprised at his comments, says they haven’t even practiced reading menus yet. “Whatever’s going on there with your learning is spilling out, so that’s very cool.”

Moncrief’s experiences are what VLC is aiming to facilitate more of. This Saturday (May 26), they’re hosting the “Fun-raiser retro bash for literacy,” a retro-themed dance party featuring live music from the Palamos Project. It’s happening at the Oaklands Community Centre, 2827 Belmont Ave.

Moncrief is one of over 200 people who regularly attend the VLC or use one of their programs. As an adult using their one-to-one program, he represents a fraction of what the organization does.

They also host tutoring for schoolchildren, for families referred by the Mustard Seed, for inmates at the Vancouver Island Correctional Centre, as well as adult immigrants. It also runs an after-school care program called “Noisy Kids Reading Club.”

VLC executive director Christine Bossi says the inmates program – a partnership with the Cowichan School District – has been beneficial to students at the correctional centre, who are avid learners despite their challenging circumstances.

“Inmates are very focused on getting a high school diploma or an occupational certificate and that helps them when they get out to integrate into society,” she says.

Christine Bossi, executive director of the Victoria Literacy Connection, is excited about an upcoming fundraiser for the organization. Nicole Crescenzi/VICTORIA NEWS

Other programs, like the one designed for immigrants is a partnership with S.J. Willis school, and has seen a lot of interest, despite being only five months old.

“It started as a conversation group to get enough English comprehension to start reading, but now news has spread and we have four groups,” Bossi says. “It can be young people who are immigrants, but also maybe some who have been here for 20 years and never really learned the language properly.”

VLC also has partnerships with the University of Victoria to find free tutors for other subjects, like math, Bossi says. Because of the large demand for teachers in Victoria, it was hard to find educators who would be able to volunteer their time, she notes, but the partnership has worked perfectly for students studying education who need volunteer hours.

VLC also offers some courses in simple computer literacy, as many people are unfamiliar with how to use computers and find it harder and harder to keep up with the job market.

Most of the programs are free and run by over 100 volunteers, who Bossi says are drawn to the organization because of the amazing moments they experience when students finally understand something.

“We have the English conversation class and there’s so much joy and the laughter coming out of those sessions because they’re having epiphanies and they’re realizing certain things that for 20 years they’ve been wondering [about],” she says. “Now they understand.”

Proceeds from the weekend fundraiser will benefit the many programs VLC hosts; tickets are $20 and can be purchased at victorialiteracyconnection.ca.

nicole.crescenzi

@vicnews.com

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