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The Weaving Literacy Project

Learning from the Weaving Literacy Project    (PDF)

How can communities work together to promote literacy and community building? How can we support literacy and family support groups to work together to integrate literacy into their work with families and communities? These questions were at the centre of the Weaving Literacy project. The Weaving Literacy was a collaboration between the Canadian Association of Family Resource Programs (FRP Canada) and the Movement for Canadian Literacy, with funding from the National Literacy Secretariat/Human Resources and Skills Development.

The Weaving Literacy project (2002 – 2005) was a national, bilingual, training project bringing together literacy and family support groups from 22 communities across Canada to develop and implement a literacy plan for their communities. The project took its inspiration from the work of literacy groups such as CBAL (the Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy), the NWT Literacy Council, the Nunavut Literacy Council, Parenting for a Literate Community, http://www.unbf.ca/education/ecc/plc/index2.htm,
and other groups that take a community building approaches to literacy.


What is an integrated approach to literacy?

The Weaving Literacy project promotes a community-building approach to literacy. This approach takes a long-term, holistic view of literacy and learning as connected to other community issues. Some examples of this approach are:

  • Creating opportunities for people to come together to learn about things that are important to them, to share ideas and to develop networks. This is all part of building community-and supporting literacy and learning;
  • Linking literacy and learning to existing community activities and projects where people already feel comfortable and have few barriers to participation;
  • “Pulling out” the opportunities for literacy and for community building within these existing community activities and projects;
  • Collaborating, and not competing with, other community groups when setting up new projects;
  • Seeing the community as a whole and working to reduce institutional barriers to the services and supports people need;
  • All community groups seeing their work as connected to literacy, even though they may not ‘teach’ literacy directly;
  • Valuing and promoting literacy outside of formal schooling as key to creating a learning community;
  • Seeing all community members as having literacy knowledge and interests that benefit the community, rather than as “lacking” in literacy skills. And of course,
  • The everyday work that literacy, family support and other community groups already do: their daily one-to-one interaction with people is central to community-building.

Weaving Literacy publications

Resource Guide

The Weaving Literacy project builds on the collaboration between FRP Canada and the Movement for Canadian Literacy, which produced the resource Weaving Literacy into Family and Community Life: A Resource Guide for Promoting Literacy in Family Resource Programs in 2000.

This resource provides helpful background ideas and detailed information about literacy in Canada, quality practice in family literacy and the work of literacy organizations and family resource programs.

Planning Guide

Interested in putting integrated approaches to literacy into practice? You will want to order the Weaving Literacy Planning Guide, available through FRP Canada

In the second stage of the Weaving Literacy project five community literacy planning workshops were held across Canada in the Spring and Summer of 2004. The workshops reflected asset-based approaches to community planning and involved literacy and family support groups from 22 communities, known as “Weaving Literacy teams.”

The result of these workshops was The Weaving Literacy Planning Guide

This guide is of interest to organizations and communities who want to:

  • Work with diverse community groups to address literacy and learning needs in their community
  • Identify and build on existing literacy and learning opportunities
  • Reduce gaps and barriers and forge inclusive community literacy programming
  • Develop a better understanding of the work of other community groups and how it connects to literacy
  • Develop a plan to address key issues in literacy and learning in their community

To assist in the planning process, this guide also includes:

  • many examples of integrated approaches to literacy in Canada
  • case studies, stories and experiences of literacy workers and family support groups across the country
  • diverse views on literacy and community building
  • Ideas for tracking progress in literacy planning

Learning Report

Literacy and community building are dynamic processes. They are rooted in local contexts, and shaped by the diversity of Canadian communities. But communities, and literacy and family support workers, share common concerns, challenges and desires.

Read more about these, as well as the project design and the many exciting projects and events the Weaving Literacy teams initiated, in the downloadable Learning from the Weaving Literacy Project Report


Weaving Literacy Advisory Committee

The Weaving Literacy project benefited from a dedicated and creative group of advisors:

Shirley Annable
Adult learner representative
Movement for Canadian Literacy
Lisa Campbell/Cate Sills
Northwest Territories Literacy Council
Wendy Desbrisay
Executive Director
Movement for Canadian Literacy
Margo Fauchon
Fédération canadienne pour l’alphabétisation en français
Leona Gadsby
Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy (CBAL)
Bev Kirby
Community Education Network, Newfoundland
Ningwakwe Priscilla George
National Indigenous Literacy Association (NILA)
Judith Poirier
Fédération québécoise des organismes communautaires Famille


The Weaving Literacy partners and project team

Project partners

The Canadian Association of Family Resource Programs (FRP Canada)
Since its founding 30 years ago as an association of toy libraries, FRP Canada has evolved into a pan-Canadian association that serves its 500 family support member organizations through the advancement of social policy, research, resource development and training. Family resource programs, although known by many different names, share a commitment to strength-based practice and working in partnerships with families and communities. Through a multitude of programs, these organizations endeavour to meet the diverse needs and desires of their participating families.

The Movement for Canadian Literacy
The Movement for Canadian Literacy was established in 1978. It supports the development of a strong movement of people and organizations involved with literacy education and its members include provincial and territorial literacy coalitions. MCL lobbies and educates the Federal Government and the general public about literacy issues in Canada, and works with provincial and territorial literacy coalitions to ensure that all Canadians have access to quality literacy education. Connect to their website to read more about their work and subscribe to their quarterly newsletters for up-to-date information and resources on literacy in Canada.

The Weaving Literacy Project team

Project manager
Suzanne Smythe

Project coordinator
Janice MacAulay

Administrative assistants
Bonnie Soroke
Jennifer Cliff-Marks

John Malcolmson

Project consultant
Lee Weinstein

Community Literacy Planning Workshop Facilitators

Lisa Campbell NWT Literacy Council
Jennifer Cliff-Marks Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy
Leona Gadsby Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy
Judith Poirier Fédération québécoise des organismes communautaires Famille
Suzanne Smythe smythemu@interchange.ubc.ca

Links to literacy organizations and community planning resources

Looking for resources to support community development and literacy? Hoping to connect with a literacy organization in your community? Want to find out more about the work of literacy groups in Canada? Check out these links.

Keep in mind: The Internet is a fast-changing environment and some of these addresses may no longer be correct. Check the name of the sponsoring organization to find the up-to-date Web address.

Provincial and territorial literacy organizations

For a complete list of literacy organizations in your region, and a description of their work and detailed contact information, visit the National Adult Literacy Database and click on Provincial and Territorial Literacy organizations.

Linking literacy and community building resources

Alderson, Lucy and Twiss, Diana. Literacy for women on the streets. Capilano College/Ministry of Advanced Education, BC. 2003. http://www.nald.ca/fulltext/litforwm/cover.htm

Centre for Family Literacy (2005). Literacy happens.
“Adult literacy educators who deliver presentations and workshops to members of community organizations and agencies will appreciate this manual”.

To order: http://secure.cartsvr.net/catalogs/catalog.asp?prodid=3134024%20&showprevnext=1
For information on the Centre for Family Literacy in Edmonton, Alberta: http://famlit.ca/

Eldred, Jan (2005). Developing embedded literacy, language and numeracy: supporting achievement. National Institute for Adult and Continuing Education (NIACE): United Kingdom.

Gardner, Audrey. Building Community Capacity: Focus on Adult Literacy Handbook. Calgary: Academic Foundations, Bow Valley College, 2004 http://www.nald.ca/fulltext/connect/focus/cover.htm. See for other titles in the series, Connecting Literacy to Community.

Nunavut Literacy Council (2004). Unikpausivut: Building Language and Literacy Skills through Oral History. PDF version available in Winter 2005. For ordering information visit Nunavut Literacy Council website at http://www.nunavutliteracy.ca/ or contact the NLC at Cambridge Bay Office, Box 1049, Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, X0B 0C0, Phone (867) 983-2678; Fax (867) 983-2614.

NWT Literacy Council and Nunavut Literacy Council (2002). Tools for Community Building. To download the PDF version or for ordering information http://www.nwt.literacy.ca/comdevel/nln/combuild/workbook/cover.htm

Evaluating community-based education work

Safe Communities Kit: SPLASH and RIPPLE. Using Outcomes to Design & Guide Community Justice Work. Community Programs Division, Policing and Community Safety Branch, Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, 2004.

Ellis, Diana. Finding our way: a participatory evaluation method for family resource programs. Ottawa: Canadian Association of Family Resource Programs, 1998. FRP Canada catalogue

For many more titles on literacy and community building visit:

The Grassroots Press

The Institute for Policy Research and The Asset-Based Community Development Institute: Ordering information: http://www.northwestern.edu/ipr/abcd.html

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