Literacy Merritt and the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology are partnering to offer adults in the Nicola Valley a free course in basic literacy.

“This is the first time that this level of literacy has been offered to adults in our community — or the first time in a very long time,” Literacy Merritt outreach co-ordinator Robyn Grebliunas said.

The full-time course started up this week at NVIT and includes an English and a math class in the fall term that continue into the spring term. The spring term also includes a computer literacy course.

“Everything is done online now and it’s completely intimidating, even if you can read the language,” Grebliunas said.

Grebliunas said the Nicola Valley has a gap when it comes to programs for adult literacy as community programs for early years are already offered and literacy for school-aged students is covered by the school system.

Grebliunas said the non-profit Literacy Merritt identified adult literacy as a gap in 2008, and this course is designed to partly fill that gap.

“You can always do more, but there are a lot of services in our community. Adult literacy is where we keep identifying that more service is needed,” she said.

She said the courses being offered through this program are basic and aimed at easing people’s day-to-day lives.

“We’re talking about functional literacy so that you can do your banking and do your grocery shopping and fill out forms,” she said.

Grebliunas said the classes fit a wide variety of learners, including people who’ve advanced past conversational English as a second language classes.

Part of the reason the course can suit a number of different goals is the low teacher to student ratio.

“There might be a wide variety of goals amongst the learners. Some might be entering the program because their goal is to read to their child or grandchild. Someone else might be entering the program to work their way through literacy into college-readiness or adult Dogwood,” she said. “We just want to work with each learner individually on their own goals and get them into the right level of learning.”

People can be referred to the program by an education co-ordinator or a support worker, but Grebliunas said program organizers are keen to help anybody who is interested find the right level of literacy programming. For example, if a person wants to take just the math class, he or she is able to do that.

“This is sort of the front door. We’re completely flexible and we’ll help the learners with what they need.”

The program was made possible by the Community Adult Literacy Program grant from the province’s Ministry of Advanced Education as well as funding contributed by NVIT.

“We would’ve never been able to offer this level of programming just with our grant. NVIT’s partnership in this was key,” she said.

The group can apply for the grant every year, and Grebliunas said she hopes to see this program return next year.

Although the program technically kicked off Tuesday, Grebliunas said the start dates are flexible. Anyone interested can still apply by calling NVIT at 378-3300 or Grebliunas at 345-5851.

The full-time course runs until April. There is no tuition.