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Always learning . . . Literacy Aotearoa South Canterbury student Julie Tulley (right) has progressed in four years from learning basic literacy to putting in an application for the World of Wearable Arts, with the support of her tutor Sandra Lindsay. PHOTO: GRETA YEOMAN

by Greta Yeoman

Literacy.

One might think it is simply the skill of reading and writing.

But in 2019, with all the technological advances in the world, it is a far broader term, Literacy Aotearoa South Canterbury tutor Sandra Lindsay says.

The tutoring agency in Grey Rd does offer the standard reading and writing skills, but also adds digital skills, such as learning how to use computers and smartphones, sending emails, and writing documents in digital form.

For student Julie Tulley it has been a big journey.

The former employee of Davidson’s Apiaries, who spent almost 40 years working in the family beekeeping firm with parents and other relatives who understood her phonetic spelling, said it was not until she was forced outside of the bubble after the family firm closed that she discovered her spelling would not cut it in the wider world.

“Now you can
access the world.
Back in the day,
we only had the library.”

It was a common issue for many of Literacy Aotearoa students, Mrs Lindsay said.

“[Families] aren’t intending to set family up for failure . . . but by helping [with understanding their different spelling or writing] they’re not helping in the long term.”

Julie said the “scariest” part was reaching out for help with her literacy, but since she had, she had learned so much.

Mrs Lindsay said while people in urban areas had learned to use things like eftpos machines, adaptation to technology and other processes, for those working in rural areas who did not have to encounter them, it could be a bit of a culture shock when they did.

“All those things we take for granted.”

However, the new skills she was now learning was extra knowledge she was “learning by choice”.

In the four years since Ms Tulley started with Literacy Aotearoa, she had learned formal writing and reading skills, as well as how to do computing, maths and raves about the free online education through Pathways Aotearoa.

Her ability to learn and challenge herself through internet access had opened up a whole new world.

“Now you can access the world. Back in the day, we only had the library.”

She now has her own laptop, something she said would have been unthinkable several years ago, and had progressed from basic literacy skills to putting together an entry for the World of Wearable Arts competition next year.

Her entry, a design based on the bees she grew up with, was just one example of the learner-led process at Literacy Aotearoa.

She had learned how to use word processing software, putting together all the information for her entry and the process of creating it.

Ms Tulley said a lack of literacy was a problem for many people, as they could often fall through the cracks of the schooling system and slowly slip behind their peers.

She encouraged people wanting support for their literacy knowledge or other skills – including applying for car licences, understanding tax and other issues for applying for benefits, or seeking support with technology – to get in contact with Literacy Aotearoa.

“The scariest part is asking for help .. but they help a lot of people out.”

International Literacy Day is on Sunday, September 8, which concludes the Festival of Adult Learning (formerly Adult Learners’ Week).