Grace and her daughter Helen enjoyed one of the story walks put on by the Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy. Photo: Submitted

Grace and her daughter Helen enjoyed one of the story walks put on by the Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy. Photo: Submitted

Castlegar literacy programs going strong

Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy is still offering services throughout the West Kootenay.

The Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy (CBAL) has come up with a number of ways to continue offering services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We got creative,” said Castlegar CBAL literacy coordinator Rhonda Palmer.

“Instead of just shutting everything down, we decided we were going to still have our programs.”

CBAL is a non-profit literacy organization offering services throughout the region.

CBAL usually offers services at their office, in schools and at the library, however a lot of their programming moved to Zoom throughout the spring and summer.

Early childhood programming now includes things like take-out craft and project kits, followed by Zoom meetings for the parents and kids to participate in together.

More creativity has come in as the organization moves towards offering more in-person services again.

CBAL has offered several story walks and plans to continue offering more throughout the fall and winter.

At a story walk, pages of a book are laminated to a sign and then stuck into the ground a short distance from each other. Participants then read and explore the book one page at a time with a walk between each page. The walks were held at Millennium Park and Kinsmen Park and different locations are being explored for future walks.

“It went really well and had a lot of good feedback from parents,” said Palmer.

English language classes and tech learning for seniors have both moved to in-person services again.

Immigrants wanting to improve their English skills can access services on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at the Castlegar and District Library, but participants must register for the service to ensure COVID-19 related protocols can be kept.

An altered version of the Strong Start program at Robson Community School has also restarted. The two-hour sessions are available on weekdays, but are by appointment only.

One-on-one English tutoring is also back up and running and CBAL is adding four more volunteer workers to the program. The new volunteers are undergoing training and will soon be available to offer services to more people.

Tech Learning Place is operating on Wednesday mornings by appointment only.

Palmer says this is an especially important service to offer for seniors during the pandemic as they are looking for more ways to connect with others.

“COVID was a real eyeopener for me,” said Palmer. “Seniors were wanting to connect.”

CBAL has been able to help people learn how to use cell phones, iPads, emails and Facetime through the program.

Family Time for Immigrants featuring stories, songs and rhymes and an adult component is still taking place via Zoom.

“It’s basically a time for families to have a lot of conversations,” explained Palmer.

Books for Kids campaign

CBAL has also had to adapt its annual fall fundraising campaign.

RELATED: Books for Kids celebrates 10 years in the Kootenays

This year, you won’t see people out in the community raising funds for the Reach a Reader – Books for Kids campaign. Rather, the organization is selling colourful bamboo and merino wool socks at their office and the library. One dollar from each pair of socks sold will stay right in Castlegar to support local literacy efforts. Donations can also be made directly at

Black Press has been a campaign partner with CBAL for 10 years. Since then, the campaign has raised more than $100,000 for local literacy programming.

For information on any of the settlement or immigrant programs, send an email to

For Tech Learning Place, you can call 250-365-3386 or go to to register.

For any other programs, call 250-687-4983 or email

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