Learner Story

My name is Jason and I am from China.

Thank you for giving me a chance to meet my tutor Bob. Since we began, we have worked to improve our English with him. He has taught us, my wife Anna and I, every week. He always spends lots of time with us, and has been teaching us listening, speaking, reading, writing, and pronunciation in English. He always teaches us to learn very carefully.

I really appreciate, that with Bob’s help, our English skills are improving. I want to tell you, my wife and I will be returning to China on September 5th. We do not want to leave such a good tutor, maybe one day if we can return to Edmonton again, we would be pleased if Bob would  teach us English again.

When we go back to China, we plan to keep in touch and study English on the computer using SKYPE.

Thanks so much to the Centre for Family Literacy!

Thank you very much Bob, we will remember you in our hearts. We would like to learn from you continuously in the future.


Jason and Anna.


Reasons To Read

If you’re not a reader, there are many reasons why you should become one.

A large chunk of my adult life did not include reading books for enjoyment. I was too busy, so I skimmed and scanned a lot of magazines and read the necessary work-related articles, never taking the time to enjoy a good book.  I had other things asking of my time. Almost 10 years ago when my father was very ill, I found myself in a hospital room, followed by sleepless nights.  I had to figure out a way to distract myself.

That’s when the book, an old friend, came back into my life. Oh, how I missed this friend! Like a true friend, the book was there for me, (if I hadn’t misplaced it). The book waited patiently for me to find it – I had unconditional love. It didn’t judge me if other priorities came up and I reconnected three days later.  Every day, my friend took me on adventures.  I missed the fun we had together.

If you find yourself in need of a friend, ask a book to be a part of your life.

In The Old Days…

I have always loved when someone takes the time to tell me a story about “the old days”.  You know, the ones where people walked to school uphill both ways through 10-foot snow drifts?  It’s especially meaningful to me when the storyteller is someone from my family – it’s amazing what I learn!!

This past weekend, my family was over.  I’m not sure how it even started, but my mom started telling stories of her childhood.  She didn’t have electricity or running water until she was a teenager – and this really wasn’t that long ago!  I won’t tell you her exact age, but it was within the last 50 years.  She told me things I had never known in my thirty some years, but were so interesting to hear.

In school this past year, my son had an assignment to find out more about his heritage.  He interviewed his great grandma who told him that our family has been in Canada for over 300 years!  I had no idea and we thought that was a pretty cool thing to learn.

Oral storytelling is one of those things – with the evolution of technology and just the way families are spread out these days – that has lost its appeal and practice.  People are often scared to try it, thinking they have to be elaborate stories that are told perfectly.  What they don’t realize is that the best told stories are really about them and their family’s own experiences and are told in their own way.

Children love to hear stories about the past.  Topics like how they got their name, where they lived, what school was like for their parents or grandparents, the fact that there was a time when everyone did not carry a computer in their hands (and yes, there was a time like this – try explaining that to young kids today), really interest them and is an important way to share information.

Children also like to tell stories.  Encourage them to do it – let them tell about an experience in their own way, without any prompts.  They usually won’t tell it like you, but listen carefully to let them know how important it is so they can practice this skill.  Not only will it build their oral skills, but also help with reading, as they understand the order and “rules” of stories.

Oral storytelling needs to make a come back.  There are games that you can play that help people get comfortable telling a story out loud, by making it silly, funny and safe.  This one I did with my team at a retreat and with my kids around a campfire.

The first person starts a line of the story and ends at a point where the next person has to decide what will happen.  For example:

“I was walking down a forest path when all of a sudden…”

The next person might say:

A huge bat jumped out in front of me waving a…”

As you can imagine, the story keeps going until it becomes too silly to continue (my team says I can’t write what ours looked like – they were embarrassed).   I have to say though; my team couldn’t hold a candle to what my kids came up with!!

A little more complicated is a game where you start a rhythm that everyone does the entire time and each person takes a turn to give one word (or syllable) for each snap.  The rhythm goes:

Slap (your leg with one hand)

Slap (your other leg with the other hand)

Snap (with one hand)

Snap (with the other hand)

For example the first person would do the slaps and then on each snap say a word like “One day”.

The next person would do the slaps and say on each snap “there were”.

The next person would do the same and say “horse-s”.  And on it would go until the rhythm gets mixed up.

Both these games are great fun and practice for oral storytelling.  Have fun with it and don’t forget to pass what you know to the next generation and encourage them to do the same.

A Learner’s Story

I met my English tutor, Mary-Frances Smith the summer of 2004 at the Centre for Family Literacy located on Jasper Ave.  I couldn’t believe my tutor is a zealous, young and beautiful lady. We met once a week at the centre or the library. I sent her a couple of e-mails as homework for my journal. She let me choose my own novels and grammar books, and we work at my own pace. I felt great progress from learning from her creative and flexible teaching.

I am a mother of three and have been in Edmonton for almost two decades. After I enrolled in the adult tutoring program with Mary, my life changed greatly; I got my job at the YMCA. I can handle the daily matters all by myself. Mary helped me to build my self-esteem. I independently solve the problems in my family and my work. She always advises me with her positive ideas!

Learner Story: There Is No Such Thing As Can’t

When I first went to the Centre for Family Literacy, I was scared to admit that I can’t read or write. I thought it was a school for special Ed people. But I saw people like me, who are the same as everyone, in the literacy program.

Then I met Debbie. She made me do a test to see what level I am at. Debbie got me to open up a lot, and she changed me in a way that changed my life. I was shy to read, but Debbie said “Take your time”.

When I learned how to read and write, I was so shocked that I wanted to learn more, to get to college and to be an actor.

I have been working with tutors for seven years, and I’m still learning more. I am reading a lot better. Now I can read to my kids. I read what I need to  at work and I am studying for a Class 3 driver’s license (to drive buses and semis). I feel like I know more about what is going on around me, and I pay more attention to the news. I even go on the computer more often.

My dad told me that there is no such thing as can’t, only can do.

Books: Friends for Life

I cannot remember a time when I could not read. I have always been an avid reader, ever since I was very little. As an only child living on acreage, I did not have the social networks that some kids did. I didn’t mind; I had books!

Very early on in life I learned that books were my companions. The characters in my books evoked real emotion.  They were my friends, my adventures, my escape and my home.

To this day, I read every single day. When I was studying at NAIT, my reward to myself for completing assignments or homework was to read my “real” book. People thought I was crazy. But I love reading that much.

Today, I am very lucky to work at the Centre for Family Literacy. We have a library that I can read books from every day! And I do. I take out our smaller quick reads, and on my breaks I read. Every day I get to learn a new story. It’s so fun and interesting to explore the wonderful world of fiction and literature.

Over my life, friends have come and gone. Circumstances change. But there are always books to keep me company and take me away.

The Power of Volunteering

It was 2005 and I was taking Business Management at NAIT. The overall experience was somewhat dreadful for me, but there was one defining event that concluded my academic career on a high note.

My favorite class was Leadership and it required 15-30 hours of volunteer work. Literacy is my passion, but how would I accomplish the required hours in a short time frame?

I would host a school-wide book drive! I organized a core planning team, and we recruited over half of the Leadership class as well as some volunteers who just wanted to be part of the experience. Together we executed the “Need 2 Read” book drive, a 3-day event with volunteer stations placed strategically around the school. Over 30 volunteers were a part of this exciting endeavor. We raised over 3,000 books for the Centre for Family Literacy!

That one experience left such a positive impression on me. Now, years later, I am the Volunteer Coordinator at the Centre for Family Literacy.  It just goes to show… Follow your passion and volunteer for what you believe in. You never know what may come as a result.

A Learner’s Story

A few years before I came to the Centre For Family Literacy, my girlfriend gave me a flyer for the Centre with the phone number on it, but I did nothing about it. One day, my 7 year old daughter and I were reading a book and I had trouble making out the words. My daughter made fun of me. I decided to call the Centre and make an appointment to see someone. Whenever I tried to read I would get frustrated and give up. I tried to read in front of people once and they made fun of me because I could not make out the words. I knew that not being able to read was holding me back in life. Going to meet my tutor was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done! The first few sessions with my tutor were nerve wracking! It took a few sessions to learn to relax. When my tutor asked me to write the days of the week and the 12 months we realized I could not do cursive writing. One of the reasons I learned how to read is so I could learn how to use the computer and new technology. I went from a Level one to Level six in one year and won the Lois Hole Adult Literacy award. Reading has helped me in many ways. I now can understand work orders and use the computer to help fix my vehicles. I enjoy surfing the “net”. It’s nice to be able to look at instructions and figure them out on your own instead of waiting for someone else to help you out. I remember how I used to struggle looking for addresses in the city. Now, I take reading for granted because I don’t even remember all the struggles I used to have… but there are still more mountains to climb.


My Place

This story was written by a member of The Book Club program at the Centre for Family Literacy.

My Place

Big tall trees circle around the strong house. As I walk up to the steps, I see my bay window that bends around the side of the house. I open the heavy door and sit on a soft ledge. I sit with my best blanket. I hear the loud crackling sounds in the fireplace. Holding a big cup of hot tea in my hands, I watch the rain hit the window and run down the window panes. Lightening makes loud sounds. I have soft music on. Being by myself, I have my best friend- a big beige Retriever lying on my lap. I watch the rain run down the window and hear the drops. I smell the wet grass and see the rain wash the flowers. Birds shake the water off their feathers. I am by myself with my thoughts.



Come On – You Know You Want to Press the Button!

What do a preschooler, a six, nine and eighteen year old, and any adult I’ve seen so far have in common?  We all have to press the button!

Here at Centre for Family Literacy, we recently came across an excellent children’s book called Press Here by Hervé Tullet.  Anyone who knows me at all knows that I like to press buttons and ring bells, so of course the book landed on my desk very quickly.

As I went through, following the directions on each page – pushing and rubbing dots, shaking the book, blowing on it – I kept thinking, “my kids would love this! Who am I kidding – I LOVE IT!”

In the end though, it did make it home and I tested it out on my niece (4), my daughter (6), and my son (9).  It started out tentatively; they pushed the button as I held the book.  As it got more interactive, suddenly the book was ripped out of my hands in their anticipation to shake the dots to the other side of the page.  Pretty soon, I didn’t even need to be there (but I was, because I was doing it all too of course).

I took the story of my family’s response back to the office and was informed by one of our team that she had walked in on her 18 year old interacting just as enthusiastically with the book as my kids and niece had.

I have heard nothing but the same stories of fun family interaction more times than I can count now in relation to this book.  As I watched one young teenage girl self-consciously start looking at the book and doing what it asked, I could tell that she really wanted to get into it, but was asking herself if it was a cool thing to do.

“Isn’t it weird that you know it’s a book, but you really feel the need to do everything it asks?” I asked her.  She nodded in agreement and I said, “go ahead, we’ve all done it”.

I sat back and smiled as she made the decision that it was fun and okay and had a blast with the rest of the book.

Now that’s how you take the measure of a great book!