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VIDEO: Literacy is Contagious

November 20, 2010

I’ve said it once, (maybe twice) and I’ll say it again: we need innovative ideas to make literacy work for young people. Today there are many literacy programs and centres beknown and unbeknown to me that are doing amazing things with reading, writing and young people. Valencia 826 has acted as a super-star success story for how meaningful a literacy program can be. Dave Eggers explains…

Three lit programs that I’m most intimate with are quickly following the trend and celebrate successes of their own.

1. The Suspicious Fish: My first love and first taste at volunteerism in literacy

What they do: Students from Verdun Elementary School, Montreal from grades 4-6 work with Concordia University Creative Writing students (and any other adult hands available) to write amazing stories and poems that are collected in an anthology. They’ve also designed the cover with students’ original artwork and have produced a student-written, student-featured film. This year’s venture promises to be bigger and better. Founder Gary Purcell admits to be influenced by Dave Eggers’ Valencia 826.

Check out: Previous anthologies here and here.

2. Women with Wordz: My writing circle makes Wednesday my favourite day of the week

What they do: A Literature for Life project, Women with Wordz is a writing circle and book club held every Wednesdays in Toronto. Group members are primarily young-mothers who are residences of parenting agencies. With instruction from writer and youth advocate Motion, women write stories, poems, dramatic plays and lyrics in a nurturing environment to receive feedback and encouragement. These writings are then published on the WomenWordz blog. There is also a book club that introduces young women to literature that are prevalent and interesting to their lives.

Check out: WomenzWordz blog here.

3. NOW HEAR THIS! I know I work here, but they didn’t pay me to promote them. I genuinely like my job

What they do: NOW HEAR THIS! is a literacy outreach program that integrates professional local writers into the classroom, community centres and other hubs of literacy with the assistance from the Descant Arts & Letter Foundation. Also inspired by Valencia 826, NOW HEAR THIS! has two main programs: S.W.A.T. which connects writers into the Toronto high-schools for a school semester and WRITE ON! Workshops that allow writers to facilitate to community centres and libraries, ESL programs, at-risk youth and other marginal groups.

Check out: Website here.

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