How accessible literacy programs can decrease crime in St. Albert

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On Sept. 5, 2017, Dr. Charmaine Brooks took the podium within the St. Albert City Council chambers with a mission: demonstrate the benefits of a new branch library. Dr. Brooks is leading a team of motivated St. Albert citizens to ensure the community votes yes for the new branch library during the Oct. 16 municipal election.

“I can honestly say, I am grateful beyond measure to be able to work alongside some of our community’s most respected leaders on this campaign,” Dr. Brooks said at the Sept. 5 event. “We will bring people together to learn about what the library does for citizens and how it will preserve and enhance our small town feel as it grows.”

The mission of Dr. Brooks and her team is not to simply build a library. It’s to ensure the future of St. Albert is bright as possible, and improved accessibility to literacy programs is key in achieving this goal.

Two in every five Canadian adults — a number that reaches 9 million people — can’t read well enough to do everyday tasks, according to a fact sheet by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP). The majority of these Canadians are men, and they come from all areas of Canada — seniors, immigrants, Indigenous Canadians and people within the corrections system.

Low literacy is a community problem. It is a societal problem. And the burden created by low literacy is one we all share.

“Students who are not reading at grade level by grade three are four times more likely to drop out [of school],” Dr. Brooks said. “Students who drop out of high school are two times as likely as their peers to be unemployed.

“Individuals who are unemployed are three times more likely to commit crime.” And these are statistics that are shared across the country.

And there’s a greater financial burden associated with these trends. The costs associated with incarcerating at the Edmonton Remand Centre is approximately $106,000 every year, Dr. Brooks said.

“Some are attempting to highlight the cost of the branch library through an anti-tax message, [but]our group will be sharing the facts that support a need to invest in the branch library now,” Dr. Brooks said. “It is painfully ironic that this issue is on the ballot in Lois Hole’s home town.

“Lois Hole spoke about the essential nature of public libraries and their power to change lives.”

And beyond the costs of low literacy rate and crime, there’s still a huge burden associated with denying individuals access to literacy programs.

“There are all the ties that exist between literacy and your ability to participate in society,” Shawn Bayes, executive director of the Elizabeth Fry Society, told the Vancouver Sun in 2012. “I mean the tax credit system, banking, almost everything is literacy driven now.”

St. Albert’s proposed new branch library tackles these issues by enabling residents to have more space to access the library’s resources. Visit http://www.yesforthelibrary.ca/ today to learn more about the proposal and discover all of the ways the new library will benefit its patrons.

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