Hop, skip and jump to it: Annual N.W.T. literacy week turns 'physical'

The group behind the annual N.W.T. Literacy Week says it's time to get physical.

Events are happening in Yellowknife and at least 13 communities until Sept. 30

Jessica VanOverbeek (left) and Charlotte Upton want to educate people on what physical literacy is and why it's so important in the North, where the long, cold, dark winters make most people want to hibernate. (Melinda Trochu/CBC)

The group behind the annual N.W.T. Literacy Week says it's time to get physical.

Although literacy is commonly known as the ability to read and write, it's also defined as the knowledge in a specified area. So this year, the N.W.T. Literacy Council has decided to educate the public about "physical literacy."

"You would learn how to throw a ball or how to jump, how to balance on one leg, maybe what the difference between a hop and a jump is, or a skip and a gallop," said Jessica VanOverbeek, executive director of the Mackenzie Recreation Association.

Physical literacy is there to help people get more active, learn how to move, but also the vocabulary attached to the movement, she said.

On Monday, VanOverbeek was giving a presentation in front of an empty room, making it clear that physical literacy may be an unknown concept for a lot of people.

The International Physical Literacy Association says the concept of physical literacy was first proposed in 1993 at the International Association of Physical Education and Sport for Girls and Women Congress in Melbourne, Australia.

Charlotte Upton, a coordinator with the literacy council, said literacy week is promoted through Facebook, posters and emails. Even if people did not show up Monday, she is excited by this year's topic.

A lot more than sports

She acknowledges the term is still new for a lot of people but believes physical literacy is important in the North because of the long, cold, dark winters.

"They kind of just think it's sports but it's a lot more than sports. It's getting out on the land, being able to navigate your way on the water, being able to check your nets, being able to participate in your community in whatever capacity that you want to," she said.

The challenge with physical literacy — just as it is with other forms — is to learn the basic skills, get confident and then improve.

This year, there are 15 events in various communities that are being funded by grants from the council. For example, there will be a basketball tournament in Inuvik and a bowling night in Hay River, says Upton.

Other communities are also organizing free swims.

In Yellowknife, the literacy council will be giving out free books at noon Tuesday near the Post Office. It will also have a family physical literacy fun night on Friday at the Fieldhouse.

Families will have the opportunity to understand firsthand, through games, what physical literacy is really about.