Aboriginal literacy focus of Banff conference

Aboriginal community leaders are in Banff this week talking about ways to boost literacy in native communities.

National Reading Campaign looking at ways to boost skills in native communities

Aboriginal community leaders are in Banff this week talking about ways to boost literacy in native communities.

It’s the first of three policy roundtables planned by the National Reading Campaign over the next three years to tackle the issue.

A report released this year by TD Bank –- which is supporting the initiative — estimated that 60 per cent of aboriginal Canadians don't have the literacy skills to take part in today's economy.

One presenter at the conference said only about one third of native reserves in Canada have libraries.

The Kainai Library on the Blood reserve near Lethbridge is the only one in Alberta.

Patsy Aldana, chairwoman of the National Reading Campaign, said it’s essential to boost reading skills in aboriginal communities.

“They're always being blamed for not coming up to the economic and citizenship and health and all of those standards, and yet they're not being given the most fundamental tool — which is to be a reader.”

Aldana said it is up to aboriginal leaders to determine the best way to resolve the issue.

But increased funding for libraries and aboriginal librarians would be a big help, she said.

Sheri Mishibinijima is trying to establish a national aboriginal public libraries organization.

The effort recently hit a snag when the group got a letter from the federal aboriginal affairs minister directing it to seek financial backing someplace else, she said.

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