Over the last four years, a Mission man has gone from only being able to read a handful of words, to having the confidence to travel and read novels on his own, all thanks to Mission Literacy in Motion (MLIM).
MLIM is a non-profit offering free learning programs for all ages, from toddlers to seniors, with the help of volunteer tutors. Long-time tutor, Val, is currently working with two students.
One is a recent immigrant to Canada who’s now passed her citizenship test and is enrolling into a care-aid program. The other, a Canadian man named Austin, fell through the cracks in the education system.
“I could never learn in school because the way they taught didn’t work for me,” Austin said.
Austin has been learning under Val for four years. They started with the alphabet, moved on to common signs to help him at work, then papers and books for new readers.
He’s progressed so much he was able to visit an Aunt in England on his own, and most recently, he’s started the Harry Potter series.
“I can go into Vancouver on my own now. I couldn’t before because I couldn’t read the signs,” Austin said. He hopes to eventually be able to teach children himself one day.
One in every six adults has a low literacy level, according to Statistics Canada. Approximately 50 per cent of Canadians are not able to read complex texts that require a combination of literacy, mathematics and problem solving skills, according to the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies – most speak English as a first language.
MLIM programs include Mother Goose for babies and adults, pre-school and parenting programs, Reading Buddies for early elementary children struggling with reading, youth coding programs with computers, and adult literacy for new immigrants and adults with low levels of literacy.
While COVID did not stop programming at MLIM, the switch to video sessions added challenges, and some programs have been hard to continue.
The non-profit’s future is looking more positive, but some programs are urgently in need of more volunteers.
Val does it simply for the “feel-good” feeling.
“I always come out of a session feeling so positive. It is immensely rewarding and gratifying, even if it can sometimes be a bit frustrating,” she said, adding it’s all worth it seeing a breakthrough with a student.
Val said she noticed adult literacy issues amongst Canadian adults during her working years, seeing people struggle to fill out forms and read simple signs.
But she said most of the credit at MLIM goes towards the students.
“I asked Austin why he wanted help,” Val said. “He said because it can only get better.”
Austin himself is encouraging others to volunteer.
“It can help change a life, make life easier and more enjoyable,” he said.