Increasing literacy 100 words at a time

Durham College student Eldin Atkin reading a book. The Literacy Council of Durham Region is starting its 100 Words for Literacy campaign Thursday. Photo credit: Meagan Secord

Reading 100 words from your favourite book.

It probably only takes about a minute and a Durham group is launching a social media campaign in which people record themselves reading short passages. The Literacy Council of Durham Region hopes it will inspire adults with literacy challenges to take steps towards addressing them.

The council’s campaign is called 100 Words for Literacy, and yes – they actually want you to read 100 words from your favourite book, record it, and post it on social media to raise awareness for adult literacy.

The campaign will also serve as a fundraiser for the council.

The challenge begins Nov. 1 and ends Jan. 27, which is also Family Literacy Day across Canada.

Literacy challenges among adults are not well-publicized but are a legitimate concern, says literacy council tutor Christine Jacobs.

“Statistics say that 42 per cent of Canadian adults between the ages of 16 and 65 are at a low literacy level,” says Jacobs.

According to a 2013 study by the Conference Board of Canada, four out of ten Canadian adults cannot be fully competent in most jobs because their literacy scores are too low.

According to Jacobs, adult learners are sent to the council when they are struggling with literacy skills. Whether the goal is getting into college or passing a driver’s test, the council does its best to help.

“Picking up books at the age of 30-35 is very different than 15-20 when you’re in school and you’re used to it,” says Jacobs, referencing how difficult it is for adults to learn how to read when they are years removed from school.

The Literacy Council of Durham Region trains volunteers to tutor learners and improve the skills needed to succeed.

In the past, the council held a Coffee, Tea and Words event at a local coffee shop to raise awareness for adult literacy, but this year Jacobs thought “it would be neat” to use social media to reach a wider audience. The premise is similar to the successful ALS Ice Bucket Challenge which raised $115 million through social media in 2014 and Jacobs hopes 100 Words for Literacy gains some measure of notoriety within Durham.

Participants in the challenge can upload recordings to Facebook or Twitter, using #100forliteracy and even challenge their friends to do it, Jacobs says. People can also donate through the council’s website or GoFundMe page.

Jacobs hopes the challenge will not only raise awareness but help readers find new books and encourage people to read.