Sunday January 27 is Family Literacy Day in Saskatchewan.

"Family literacy supports learning inside and outside the home," Education minister, Russ Marchuk said in a press release. "In our growing economy, literacy means financial, technological, personal and social literacy, as well as reading, writing and math."

Every year, almost 10,000 people take part in government funded family literacy programs and across the province. Two big facilitators of these programs are the Saskatchewan Literacy Network and the Saskatchewan Aboriginal Literacy Network.

“I think it’s really important to help people feel comfortable with books in the home,” said Carol Vandale, executive director of the Saskatchewan Aboriginal Literacy Network. “One thing that’s needed in families where literacy is an issue is a positive engagement with the idea of reading and learning how to read,” she said.

Vandale said that in families where parents struggle with literacy the issue is often hidden. “It’s often very shameful and people are very reluctant as adults to say ‘I don’t read and write well,’’ she said.

In the international adult literacy and skills survey conducted in part by Statistics Canada in 2003, there was a stark difference between literacy rates of aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in Saskatchewan. The survey found that the illiteracy rate of aboriginals in the province was 63 per cent, whereas only 36 per cent of non-aboriginals were illiterate.

In 2009, the Saskatchewan Aboriginal Literacy Network received federal dollars to conduct their own, community-based tool to determine and analyze aboriginal literacy rates.

“We give the data and analysis back (to the communities) and it becomes a community-based opportunity,” Vandale said.

“The tool is cultural. Questions are culturally based and people can see themselves in them and it becomes relevant,” she said.

Vandale said campaigns like Family Literacy Day help families feel comfortable with the culture of reading in the home, and that’s beneficial to helping kids engage and improve their reading skills.

This year’s theme, “15 minutes of fun”, is designed to make reading enjoyable and accessible, explained Karen Rosser, the acting executive director of the Saskatchewan Literacy Network.

“It can happen at any time,” Rosser said. “Practicing literacy together for just 15 minutes a day can have a great impact on family literacy,” she said.