MAPLETON — Lower literacy skills among rural Canadian youths has inspired a local university student to take action and bring “little libraries” to the Mapleton area.
Alexis Kuper, a University of Ottawa student from Moorefield, said she joined the Rural Ontario Institute’s Change Makers program as a way to fight off pandemic boredom.
“The goal of that program is to go through some community development training and then do something for your community,” said Kuper.
She is now taking what the program taught her and using it to work towards her goal of helping increase literacy and promote diversity in her rural community, she said.
The idea to investigate literacy skills in her community came from her experience in high school, Kuper said.
“You know when English teachers would get you to read out loud? That was the bane of my existence,” she said.
“There were like two of us that could read out loud at a reasonable, and understandable pace. The rest of us had to really stutter through it and struggle.”
This inspired her to dive deeper into the issue, she said, referencing a Statistics Canada study that showed there is a significant difference in literacy levels between rural and urban youth.
“The research [says the difference] comes from the community that these kids are raised in. Which is normally very small and tight knit,” said Kuper, adding people living in these smaller communities “don’t prioritize literacy and education as much as their urban counterparts.”
Bringing little libraries to the area will increase literacy, morale and provide the community with more access to books, according to Kuper.
The first set of books in the libraries will have a focus on diversity and normalizing other cultures and ethnicities by showcasing authors and characters of colour.
“When we were doing our community training, is when the Black Lives Matter movement really picked up. I know there was a small issue in Drayton where people put up Black Lives Matter signs, and others were angry about them. That’s just ridiculous and we don’t need to do that,” said Kuper, adding she is taking this opportunity to spread a positive message.
“They don’t see that being a problem here because of how small and predominately white our community is. That isn’t fair because if you look at the census information, we have like 60 Indian families, 30 black families and I think 10 Chinese families. It’s not fair to be like, ‘Well, this doesn’t affect us because we’re all white’ – because we’re not all white.”
Kuper will be hosting a Zoom meeting on Feb. 4 at 6pm for anyone interested in helping with the little libraries project. To participate visit https://bit.ly/3tiicaV or contact Kuper on Facebook for more information.