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A healthy, literate society where all are able to contribute and succeed.

Conference Makes International Connections

Hosted by the Centre for Family Literacy in July, the national family literacy conference, Cultivating Connections – A Global Perspective, more than lived up to its name. The knowledge that was shared about family literacy was as diverse as its attendees—with speakers from all over the world, and delegates from Canada, the United States and even Germany.

Dr. Sven Nickel, a professor at Free University of Berlin, along with his two associates, Christina Noack and Aline Wendscheck came from Berlin to take the training and sessions offered at the conference.  Dr. Nickel said, “In Germany, the idea of family literacy only recently gained broader attention.  So far, approaches to family literacy primarily focused on children…our project is one of the first . . . with an explicit focus on the parents’ literacy learning”. 

After taking “Introduction to Family Literacy”, one of their comments was how impressed they were with our strength-based, participant directed approach and the focus on the adult in family literacy programming.  All three were impressed and intrigued by the community approach used here.

Dr. Nickel showed us the pamphlet for the project they are starting in Berlin.  He had underlined the word “illiterate”.  “In Germany,” he explained, “this is the language people understand and we must use to get attention.”  He stated that because of the training and workshops they had attended, they may rethink this approach.

The prefix “il” literally means “not,” but very few people in our modern world don’t know a few letters, symbols or words in their own language.  This is why we now talk about literacy levels instead of illiteracy. Also, the word is deficit based, focusing on what people lack rather than on their strengths, the opposite of what we strive to do in strength-based, respectful approaches.

As Dr. Nickel and his colleagues embark on their new approach to family literacy, it will be interesting to see if their experiences parallel the ones we have had in Canada. We hope to be able to share more ideas and strategies with them in the future.

Conference presentation materials can be found on our website at www.famlit.ca.

Conference banquet,
Shaw Conference Centre

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