Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Be Good to Yourself

by Joanne Morant, Action Read Tutor-Learner Coordinator

The days get shorter and the sun hides behind the looming snow clouds.  It is a busy time of year as we prepare for the holidays. During this time, like a lot of people I tend to socialize more, spend more, eat more, do more and sleep less. By the time January comes around I feel exhausted, and by the time February arrives the winter blahs have settled in.
Self-care doesn’t come naturally to me.  I still insist on putting everything else before my own needs. I go into over-serving mode during the holidays to make sure everything is ready, and everyone has the “best holiday ever”.
So what steps do I need to take now to help me through the holidays and winter months until spring arrives?
Everyone has different ways and ideas to help with self-care. These are a few of mine for this holiday season!
  1. Get more sleep – 8 hours is my goal. Turn off the TV and sit quietly with a cup of herbal tea for a half hour before bed.
  2. Read – my pile of unread books seems to grow each month! Losing myself in a good book will take my mind off all the holiday preparation.
(Let's hope Joanne's pile of books isn't as big as the donation we received from the Retired Teachers this year!)
3.      Make and stick to a budget – not the easiest for me. The best places I have found to shop during the holidays are the used book stores, second hand stores (so many interesting and unusual things I could spend hours just browsing), Christmas church bazaars and the grocery store.  My sons have always appreciated a nice bottle of olive oil or specialty vinegar at this time of year and it doesn’t cost a lot.
4.       Smile – the more I smile and laugh, the better I feel.
5.       Bake – this always put me in the holiday spirit especially listening to music I enjoy. It feels great to share with others some tasty treats.
6.      Un-schedule – so many people to see and things to do in a short period of time. Instead of rushing around here and there I will set some time aside in January to visit friends and family. There will be more time to spend together and less stress for everyone.
7.      Ask for help – this year when my family gets together it will be pot-luck instead of preparing everything myself. What I always seem to forget is how much others like to cook, experiment with a new recipes and enjoy bringing a dish that they made to share. It is about being together during the holiday.
8.     Finish a project (or start a new one) – it could be a craft or an art project. Mine is a needle point I began 3 years ago. Take time out to do something I enjoy!

Give yourself permission to engage in activities that make you feel happy and less stressed during the holidays. Make time to go for a walk, have coffee with a friend, volunteer or just sit down with a good book.
I am going to tape my list to the fridge and it will stay through January, February, March………
Miriam, Gabe and Deb showing us how to kick back by channeling their inner rock stars!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Andrew's Story

I first came to Action Read to upgrade my skills to get my high school diploma. My girlfriend, at the time, already attended Action Read and recommended that I come check it out. Several years later I am still enjoying the community and learning experiences each week. I was asked if I would like to participate in an art event called “Talking Trees”. I had to pick a quote from Shakespeare that I could relate to and read it out loud. It started my journey of learning and loving Shakespeare! I am so grateful to have Action Read. I now have a better understanding of the world around me. I also appreciate the amount of times that is put into various projects at the centre.  I am most proud of my new skills and abilities to write stories. Using my imagination in unusual ways helps me express myself differently that I would have thought of before. I have already written two books and hope to write a sequel to one of them creating more bizarre animals and strange worlds. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Amanda's Story

I wanted to work on getting my GED and I heard about Action Read from a friend. I always thought that it took me a long time to learn something new, but to my surprise I have been working through the GED material quickly. The best part of coming to Action Read is how friendly and accepting everyone is. It is a great learning environment.  Being able to read is a huge gift. It gives me the ability to navigate day to day life.  Not everyone is as lucky. I write a lot of poetry about empowerment, especially for women. I think it is important for them to know that they don’t have to stay in a cycle of unhappiness and abuse.
For fun, I also really enjoy writing lists and indexes. My long term goal is to complete my GED, and then continue to post-secondary education to study art – which is my passion! If I were to write a book about anything, it would include sci-fi/mythology stories with vampires and lots of other frightening creatures and characters.    

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Learner Story Series


This spring, Action Read staff and board members had the great fortune to be able to participate in a job coaching project with Royal Roads University graduate students.  It was a very intensive process, which produced some interesting results.  At the end of the project, the coaching team provided Action Read with numerous questions to help our team focus on how we can grow and develop as an organization.  An area of particular concern to all of us was how to develop and communicate our mission and vision to members of the public.

One particular question the coaching team asked Action Read was: how can we leverage the power of stories to build excitement and cohesion around our literacy mission? With that in mind, we have been looking at different ways that we can tell the incredible stories of courage and strength that we witness each day at Action Read.  We want to communicate things like – what brings our learners into Action Read?  What have they achieved?  What have been the most surprising / rewarding / challenging parts of their learning journey? What are our learners’ long-term goals and dreams?
Over the coming months, we will answer these questions by periodically posting stories shared (with permission of course) from our learners.  We hope you enjoy reading these stories as much as we enjoyed gathering them! 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Recognizing the Achievements of our Members!

Each year at the Annual General Meeting, Action Read recognizes the contributions and achievements of individuals who have made a particular difference to our community and our mission over the past year. Choosing recipients is very difficult as there are always so many deserving candidates. Here are the recipients for 2015-2016:

Betty Bean Kennedy Award for Outstanding Volunteer

Like many of our learners, Emmett O’Neill quit school at the age of 16. He later returned to school where he came to love learning and eventually became a high school teacher for over 25 years. Retired from teaching, Emmett was keen to continue to help others to improve their skills.
Over the past 3 years, Emmett has worked intensively with two Action Read learners. Both have made amazing progress, benefitting from Emmett’s significant talent as an educator and his immense dedication and experience. Emmett’s unwavering patience, flexibility and encouragement are particularly appreciated by learners and staff alike.
Last year, Emmett faced a life threatening illness. During all the treatments and surgeries, he remained fully committed to his tutoring. When feeling well enough, he arranged to meet his learner whenever possible. Emmett continues to inspire us all with his passion and enthusiasm for lifelong learning. Our sincere thanks Emmett!

The Doris Middleton Award

Deb Donaldson
This award is given to a learner who exemplifies the dedication to learning, spirit and humour of the woman who inspired it. Without question, Debbie Donaldson is one such woman! Deb’s commitment to learning and to growing as a writer can only be described as exceptional. Deb came to Action Read to work on her computer skills, but “stumbled across” poetry in the process.   Deb graces the centre with unwavering focus,  dedication and a sunny attitude. Recently, Deb found the courage to speak publicly about her difficulties with learning in her life. She touched many people when she performed her spoken word poem at our 2016 fundraiser. Since coming to Action Read Deb has written and self-published 3 poetry books. She states “I feel capable, empowered, self-confident and enthusiastic about my progress”.  We are proud of you Deb and look forward to more poetry!

Shirley Almack Award for Learner Leadership

Shawn Knight

Shirley Almack was an Action Read Member who inspired many people around her with her courage, strength and leadership.
This year’s award goes to Shawn Knight. Shawn has made leaps and bounds in his reading and writing abilities, and his passion for personal growth and organizational governance is truly inspiring. Last year, Shawn’s newfound self-confidence in his skills meant that he felt ready to take on the responsibility of a   Learner Position on the Board of Directors. In this role, Shawn has continually demonstrated focus, commitment and a collaborative spirit. He has contributed his insights and opinions, and has listened intently to those of others with kindness and openness. Shawn also leant his support to our annual fundraiser by gathering donations for the silent auction and helping with ticket sales. Shawn is always eager to learn or to quietly lend a hand, and is a valued member of the Action Read community. Congratulations Shawn!

The Action Read Community Award 

Art Kilgour of WriteDesign
We are happy to give our 2016 Community Award to Art Kilgour of WriteDesign.  For many years, Art has supported Action Read through gorgeous design work, as seen through our logo, brochure, several of our books and signs.  Art just ‘gets’ Action Read - has always   understood what we stand for and the importance of Clear Language and Design in our work. Furthermore, WriteDesign has generously and consistently supported our fundraising efforts in a variety of ways over the years. He and his partner Nichola have attended events, and have shared contacts and connections to promote the work of Action Read in the community. For these reasons, and many more, we are grateful to count you as a friend Art, and delighted to publicly recognize your longtime contribution to Action Read’s growth and evolution.




Wednesday, August 24, 2016

International Literacy Day Celebration 2016

We are storytellers. We believe in the power of stories to explore, inform, challenge, inspire, and above all, reveal the inherent dignity of the human person and the complex reality of our experience.       - PEN Canada1

Action Read learners represent many cultures and ethnicities

Literacy and numeracy are often considered issues of childhood.  Adult literacy generally takes a back seat and is forgotten, despite the fact that a large number of people in our community struggle day in and out with the challenge of navigating life with low literacy.

It may be easy to forget how important literacy is in our daily lives. What would you do if you didn't know how much change you were supposed to receive?  What if you couldn't read the dosage on a medicine bottle that your baby needed? What would life be like if you couldn't write an email? These are common challenges that people in our community face every day, which many of us take for granted. Over 785 million adults worldwide suffer from low literacy skills. While some may not realize that it's a common problem in Canada, in fact the International Literacy Survey alone found that 1 in 4 or 24% of adults in Waterloo-Wellington 16 years and older fall in the lowest levels of literacy. 2

September 8th, International Literacy Day, is a day to recognize and celebrate literacy as a foundation for lifelong learning, as well as an essential ingredient to transform lives. At Action Read, we see first-hand the power of literacy to improve lives through such things as better employment and health, greater civic involvement and ability to communicate with others.

To mark this important day, Action Read invites you to attend our first-ever International Literacy Day celebration on Thursday September 8th 2016, from 7-9 pm, at Studio 404, located at 404 York Road in Guelph. We aim to raise awareness of our important work in the community, while building excitement and greater understanding of critical literacy-related issues facing the world today. This free licensed event is open to learners, volunteers, donors and the public. We are eternally grateful for the support of numerous sponsors and volunteers including Akal Vision, The Bookshelf, Janus Books, Joanne Poluch, Nancy Bailey, PEN Canada, Print Solutions, and Studio 404, to name a few!

Action Read invites you to celebrate with us the importance of literacy as a vehicle for freedom of expression.  Guelph educator Michael Noonan will explore the impact Action Read has had in our community for almost 30 years.  Learner Laurie Johnson will share his powerful story about how literacy and education helped transform his life from one of substance abuse and prison, to one of education and giving back to the community.  Next poet and ethics professor Dr. Karen Houle will explore issues affecting freedom of speech in Canada today.  Dr. Houle will then introduce our guests of honour from PEN Canada.  

PEN Canada is a nonpartisan organization of writers that works with others to defend freedom of expression as a basic human right, at home and abroad. PEN Canada promotes literature, fights censorship, helps free persecuted writers from prison, and assists writers living in exile in Canada. Our conversation will include a representative of PEN Canada, speaking with a writer in exile. The powerful testimony of a writer who has faced pervasive oppression and violence in his country of origin will leave no shadow of doubt about the importance of literacy as a means for freedom of expression.

We look forward to seeing you on September 8th!  Feel free to contact Action Read if you would like more information about this exciting event.

1 PEN Canada Annual Report 2015-2016
2 http://www.projectread.ca/literacy-2/facts

"Literacy Statistics." Literacy Statistics Canada. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 July 2016. Retrieved from http://www.literacy.ca/literacy/literacy-sub/

"Global Illiteracy & Global Literacy Statistics." Global Illiteracy & Global Literacy Statistics. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 July 2016. Retrieved from http://www.speakingbooks.com/impact/overview.html

Monday, August 15, 2016

Who doesn’t love a little tactile learning?

By Gabe Smith, Action Read Group Facilitator

In a simplistic way we can look at learning styles as a spectrum of 3 components (auditory, visual, and kinesthetic) with a lot of overlap. When you have a strong leaning toward kinesthetic learning it is important to link concepts to actions. Although learning by doing may not be the first thing that leaps to mind when you think of a classroom or a tutoring session it can be a very engaging way to learn.

The Action Read Math Group learning about measuring, angles and timing by launching rockets at the park, July 2016

We all learn in a variety of ways however, most people learn many things very well by watching or listening to instructions. We watch videos or talk to someone about something we need to learn. This works great both in the classroom and out in the world. Unfortunately for some of us, much of our learning is accomplished through a kinesthetic or tactile way. So what if - when you see something, it doesn’t make much sense, or when you hear something it fails to resonate? Then have some fun.

We are all capable of learning through different styles but most of us have a preferred method when we are trying to learn something difficult. This is when it can be most advantageous to know and use your preferred learning style. If you want to know all about different learning styles go ahead and check out some of the great resources below.

 If you want some examples of how you can adjust your teaching (or learning) to include some more kinesthetic and tactile elements then stick with me (or come back later).
Below a bunch of great ideas that have worked in my groups here at Action Read. Keep in mind however, when working with adults, many people will balk at activities that seem childish. So keep it light but keep it on task.


Reading out loud is a step in the right direction but…
  • acting out what is being read is great. Find a play with a great monologue or read along to your favorite song
  • stand up to read, altering your position can prolong attention
  • touching or holding different materials while reading can provide welcome stimuli. Common things are fine. I have used sand, gravel, stones, paperclips, and rags
  • storyboards or drawing what is being read can be better. This can also be a great way to let out some creativity and assess understanding
  • stress-ball anyone? These can help with all kinds of situations


Writing can be a hard subject to get physically creative with as we often get carried away with the inherent creativity of writing itself. So think about…
  • writing on different surfaces such as card stock, cardboard, paper towel, white board, chalkboard, the possibilities are nearly endless
  • using the computer. Like you needed me to tell you that!
  • talking about writing while walking, how about a few trips up and down the stairs. Frequent stops to take notes can be a great way to make sure you don’t lose all your amazing ideas


Stop avoiding math and see just how much fun it can be when…

Cooking. It’s a great way to work on all kinds of math skills such as;
  • measuring – How much flour do I use?
  • adding – If I need to put in this much milk and this much water how large of a container will I need?
  • telling time – What time will it be when I need to take those cookies out of the oven?
  • multiplication – My recipe is for 4 servings but we have 12 people in the class, how much milk will I need?
  • division – There are only 2 of us working on this project do we really need to make 24 cookies?
Trying physics. That’s right, throwing a ball or launching a rocket can be math if you measure it. This can get complicated if you go full on physics right away, but with practice you can break it down into manageable steps for basic functions.

Rock tumbling. Over time the rocks smooth out, and when this occurs they lose material. How much? Wash them and weigh them to find out. Toss a little geology into your math they feel great together. (Hint you can plot this too for a way cool looking graph. Then when you’re done, make a wicked slick looking piece of jewelry.)

How about a human clock? 
  • Place numbers out on the floor and be the hands of that clock
  • Make a clock out of an old book or CD.
      Are you getting excited? I am, let’s get up and learn!

All of that said, the best teaching and learning tools for those who need kinesthetic or tactile learning will include things that use the body or include touching and textures. They will also include some practice in translating the learning. It is always great to use our strengths but let’s not ignore our weaknesses.

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