Our Town

Local writer finalist in literacy contest

A Vancouver-based non-profit company is raising awareness on literacy rates by holding a letter-writing contest that has a Cranbrook resident as one of the finalists.

Cara Carmelo's creative entry to the Literacy is Life contest is in the top-five from entries across the province. Her submission explains what literacy means to her, how it has impacted her life and what she's done to increase literacy in Cranbrook.

Organized by Decoda Literacy Solutions based out of Vancouver, the contest is part of a province-wide campaign to raise awareness on the importance of literacy, create a new, modern understanding of literacy and raise funds for community-based literacy programs across B.C.

Carmelo learned of the contest through working alongside the Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy and decided to submit an entry.

Since she was young, reading and writing has always been important to her.

“Literacy has been really important in my life and I can remember the first time I realized what it was,” said Carmelo.

“I think literacy is a key to life and having this more meaningful existence—you’re able to contribute to society and get so much more back. I feel without literacy, you’re kind of living in the dark.”

Written in the form of a love letter, Carmelo explains how she began to appreciate literacy at a young age, starting with the Berenstain Bears and Robert Munsch books. That set the foundation for understanding the subtext for novels like the Life of Pi and the literacy skills to write her thesis in college.

“It’s so important that kids get immersed in that early, so they can really enjoy it,” said Carmelo. “As a teacher, I teach older students in middle school and high school who don’t enjoy reading and it’s kind of a shame that they’ve missed out on getting hooked on it early.”

Increasing literacy rates impacts all areas of everyday life, including health care, crime rates, employment and economic status. According to Decoda Literacy Solutions, 40 per cent of B.C. adults don’t have the literacy skills needed for reading a newspaper, filling out a work application form or reading a map.

The Literacy for Life contest winner will be announced in September.

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