Kitchener 519-743-6090 Cambridge 519-621-7993

Thursday, June, 16, 2011 – 2:02:39 PM
Finding hope through literacy
By Heather Abrey, Post staff

Finding Hope Through Literacy

Finding Hope Through Literacy


Patricia Brant, a student at The Literacy Group in Kitchener, was laid off three years ago and feeling low. With the help of The Literacy Group she has boosted her confidence and improved her skills. Now she hopes to land a full-time job or further her education in the future.

For over a decade, The Literacy Group of Waterloo Region has been helping adults upgrade their skills in order to find employment, to further their education, or just for an improved quality of life.

“We offer one-to-one tutoring for people who want to upgrade their reading, writing, math and computer skills. We also have small groups that work together,” said Karen Morgan-Bowyer, The Literacy Group’s program manager.

Tutors are all volunteers who must have good communication skills and a desire to help, but also receive 15 hours of training prior to their first session with a student.

Literacy Group services are free, and are offered to anyone 18 and over.

Those interested in brushing up their skills come in for an assessment to see whether The Literacy Group is the place for them, or whether they should be referred onto the school board or college system.

“(We have) lots of people who had been working for many, many years and even if they graduated from high school had lost skills over time.

“We do have a lot of people who had a lot of difficulty in school and left early, but as they mature and find out it’s hard to make it in the world without literacy skills they come back and will focus on a goal,” she said of the people that come through the doors of their Kitchener office.

One of those people is Patricia Brant, a former manufacturing worker who was laid off three years ago after her employer, an injection molding company, closed its doors.

Brant came across the group when she went to an unemployment office. They gave her a list of resources that could help get her back on her feet, and The Literacy Group was a blessing, for more than one reason.

“It helped me a lot. It picked up my self-esteem,” she said. “I was thinking, ‘Oh, I’ll never get a job, so why even try?’”

Brant does group classes to improve her skills and hopes to get back into the workforce as quickly as possible. She currently works part-time at Sobey’s, picking up one four-hour shift a week, but wants to do more and had an interview this week.

“I hope maybe another two years until I get a full-time job or go onto a higher education, maybe. Whichever comes first,” she said. “I’ve been improving my English. I’ve been getting my adverbs and punctuation and all that. I’ve been learning math and to use a computer.”

The Literacy Group’s Kitchener location usually services about 200 students a year, all with different backgrounds and goals.

“Every story is different really. We get a lot of referrals from Ontario Works and definitely in the past couple of years we’ve had a lot of laid off workers,” said Morgan-Bowyer. “Then occasionally we have somebody who has had something change in their life and they want to learn to read because they haven’t ever been able to. There’s always something that’s motivating them.”

Depending where they are starting from and what their goals are, students can be with the program from six months to three years. As long as they’re still making progress they’re welcome to continue, either with one-on-one tutoring or with classes.

“There are three goals paths. There’s independence, employment and further education and training,” the program manager explained. “The majority of our people are employment and further education. So they may actually be upgrading so they can finish high school at the adult learning centre, or even to go to college.”

The group is funded largely through the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, but also receives funds from the United Way, and donations received through fundraising.

Still, they rely on volunteer tutors to help students improve their skills and move on to a new stage in their lives.

For more information on services or to volunteer, visit or call 519-743-6090.