Skating, Samosas and Smartphones


Parents and kids enjoy active play during the free Sing and Swim event Sunday at the Castlegar pool. The event was put on by CBAL in celebration of Family Literacy Week.

Parents and kids enjoy active play during the free Sing and Swim event Sunday at the Castlegar pool. The event was put on by CBAL in celebration of Family Literacy Week.

Ice skating is hard. There’s a trick or two to configuring your smartphone for downloading library ebooks. Samosas are best with just the right amount of spice: not too little and not too much.

How do we know? We may have discovered it for ourselves (darn, that ice is slippery!). We may have attended a workshop, or consulted a cookbook or two. We learned it – but outside of formal school.

This month that kind of loose, often unrecognized learning, called informal and non-formal learning, is something public libraries and literacy organizations in the province are highlighting as part of the week leading up to ABC Life Literacy Canada’s Family Literacy Day, Jan. 27.


This is the kind of learning that literacy programs and public libraries support every day,” says Brenda Le Clair, chief executive officer of Decoda Literacy Solutions, which leads a literacy network that reaches 400 communities in B.C.

It might be often taken for granted, but this informal and non-formal learning – from parents reading to their children, to seniors attending social media workshops – is a vital contributor to ongoing community health and prosperity,” says Le Clair.

Simply consider the thousands of workshops, discussion groups, readings and training sessions that happen each day in public libraries and literacy programs around the province:

This is learning on a truly impressive scale – and it’s available for free,” says Sandra Singh, chief executive and chief librarian at Vancouver Public Library, who notes a body of research on the importance of informal and non-formal learning. “It makes an amazing difference to our communities and their quality of life.”

One example: sessions teaching computer basics, email and social media – perhaps to seniors or newcomers to Canada – which open up a world of possibilities for exploring information, and connecting with far-away friends and loved ones.


At the Castlegar & District Public Library, for instance, local programs include Parent-Child Mother Goose, English as a Second Language Classes, and Community Learning Place Drop-in.

We really want to recognize the value and the power of this kind of learning,” says Alana Murdoch, Community Literacy Coordinator, Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy (CBAL). “Learning happens everywhere in so many different ways. We are celebrating Family Literacy week with a variety of events in the community. At our Sing & Swim on January 27th, many families joined us for singing songs and rhymes in the pool. This week we are offering free Family Game Nights in the community, a chance for families to come and have dinner and spend some time playing games.” Please contact Alana Murdoch at 250.304.6862 or for more info. Thanks to Robson Community School, Blueberry Creek Community School Hub, School District 20, Castlegar & District Public Library, and Castlegar Community Complex for their support during Family Literacy Week!”

Informal learning and literacy are closely connected: reading, singing, playing games and talking with a child help build language skills well before the youngster starts in school.


Research shows that reading to children more than once a day has a positive impact on their future academic skills, says ABC Life Literacy Canada, citing Statistics Canada data.

It’s easy to celebrate Family Literacy Day with some informal learning, and cooking your favourite recipe with your friend or child is a perfect activity. Or explore a new recipe with a cookbook from your local library: the informal learning starts the moment you start to uncover the range of cuisines to explore.