‘I feel very humbled:’ Longtime P.A. Literacy Network volunteer recipient of provincial award

(Caio Resende/Creative Commons)

“It’s been a way that people can make changes in their lives, so I feel like I’m able to empower people.”

– LaVera Schiele

A longtime Prince Albert Literacy Network volunteer has been recognized by the provincial government.

LaVera Schiele has been chosen as the 2019 recipient of the Council of the Federation Literacy Award (COFLA). She has been volunteering for the Literacy Network for nearly 30 years.

The Literacy Network provides services to daycares, parents and teachers, providing one-on-one at home sessions and running several community initiatives.

Canada’s Premiers announced the recipients of the awards on Friday. One person is chosen in each province, receiving a certificate signed by the premier of their province or territory and a COFLA medallion.

“Literacy has always been a passion of mine. It’s been a way that people can make changes in their lives, so I feel like I’m able to empower people to do that through the gift of handing along literacy to other people,” said Schiele.

The award was created in 2004 to celebrate adults who take literacy training, as well as the “valuable contributions made by Canadians in the field of literacy, including family, Indigenous, health, workplace, and community literacy.”

Even though she feels humbled and excited, Schiele said her volunteer work is not about the awards.

“When something is a passion of yours, you don’t do it for recognition. You do it to make a difference in somebody’s life and that’s how I’ve looked at literacy all along,” she said.

Other staff members at the Literacy Network nominated Schiele for the award as a dedicated volunteer.

“I just think about children. They’re like little sponges and they learn so much, especially from people who they love and respect, and that’s from parents or caregivers. Children learn from them—they learn through the parents modelling to them, through reading, through learning new words, vocabulary.”

She said it can even be as simple as baking with your child. They’re learning through reading the recipe book and measuring the ingredients.

But, as she explained, their services aren’t just for children.

“Literacy also is a way for adults to be able to make changes in their lives. I’ve heard many stories of adults who have…quit their jobs because they are required to read.”

“I recall talking to an elderly man wishing that he could read so that he would be able to volunteer in the community,” said Schiele. “He didn’t know how he could help.”

A provincial government news release praised her for including Indigenous cultures in her teaching.

Schiele said the Literacy Network has elders tell stories on Family Literacy Day in January.

“We actually even wrote a book with a cultural and intercultural focus, and so we had an elder help with that, teaching stories and looking at the culture and traditions of First Nations people,” she said.

Schiele said she’s appreciative of the province stressing the importance of literacy.

In the release, Deputy Premier and Education Minister Gordon Wyant said they’ll be honouring Schiele with a formal event this fall.

The Prince Albert Literacy Network will be at the farmer’s market on Sunday for International Literacy Day. You can ask them about their services and receive a free book or magazine.

This year marks their 30th anniversary and they’ll be hosting a celebratory event on Oct. 10.