St. Mary’s launches new community literacy program

·2 min read

ST. MARY’S – Fertilizing its Seeds of Literacy Program with an $8,500 grant from the provincial government, the Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s will launch the homegrown community reading initiative in time for the new academic year, officials announced last week.

“There is no bad timing when it comes to promoting literacy,” enthused Warden Greg Wier in an email to The Journal about the program’s kickoff in Sherbrooke on Sept. 8, International Literacy Day. “Any program related to literacy – especially youth – is fundamental [to] growing a community.”

According to Kerri Jack, St. Mary’s community development and recreation director, the new recreation community development grant will cover approximately 50 per cent of the project cost in the first year and, potentially, in each of the next three years – helping the municipality hire a coordinator and develop “free little libraries” across the district.

“The grant has been in development since the spring and applied for early in the summer,” she said in an email.

The Seeds program – to which the municipality has committed at least $6,000 to develop – was conceived late last year, partly in response to ongoing disputes with Eastern Counties Regional Libraries’ (ECRL) board and executive over rising costs and reduced hours at the Sherbrooke lending branch. Based on a suggestion from Deputy Warden James Fuller, the civically run alternative would provide public access to books and other literacy resources evenings and weekends, independent of ECRL, through mobile lending.

Said Wier at the time: “We are going to look at any and every way we can to improve library requirements for our residents – including [those] outside of the relationship with ECRL. The Municipality of Saint Mary’s is committed to ensuring our residents can benefit from the literacy opportunities and services they need, and deserve.”

The disagreements with ECRL are under review by a provincially appointed consultant, who is expected to tender the results of its review this fall.

Meanwhile, Wier said last week, “This new funding for … Seeds … is great news. [It] enables us to take resources to designated community halls, making literacy more accessible.”

According to Nova Scotia Department of Education and Early Child Education research, between 50 and 71 per cent of Grade six students in the province were reading and writing at or above “assessment expectation” in 2021-22. That compared with 53 to 74 per cent in 2019-20.

“If just one person is inspired by our efforts,” Wier added, “it will be a success, although we are hoping for more than one.”

For more information about the program and its launch event, call (902) 522-2598.

Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal