Changing lives with the gift of literacy
  • Tuesday 06 December 2016
ImageMany of us take for granted the fact that we can read a book or the back of a medicine bottle. But if we couldn’t, it is great to know that our local library can help – and it’s free.

For the last 27 years, Sunshine Coast Council’s Libraries have provided free literacy training to adults between 15 and 76 years of age, with the dedicated support of trained volunteers.

Community Portfolio Councillor Jenny McKay said our adult literacy students included school leavers, parents, grandparents, workers, unemployed, people with physical/intellectual disabilities, migrants and many others.

“These people, for a variety of reasons, may be prohibited from participating in activities that involve reading, writing, speaking, numeracy and basic digital literacy,” Cr McKay said.

“This free course is certainly life-changing and one council is extremely proud of.”

During 2016, Sunshine Coast Libraries helped 90 students to improve their reading and writing skills with the support of 102 dedicated volunteer tutors.

One student who was keen to share her story is Cynthia Brooke.

She was even brave enough to accept the invitation to appear on the SBS Insight program in August this year.

Cynthia travelled with the support of her tutor to the SBS studios in Sydney, feeling nervous but with a strong desire to inspire other people to come forward and seek the same sort of literacy education she had obtained at Sunshine Coast Libraries.

As you hear Cynthia’s story you will feel a great sadness that people can be so unfair to fellow human beings.

On national television, Cynthia shared the fact that people used to call her “dumb” so many times, she started to think she was dumb.

Cynthia said she struggled to finish Year 12, but not without a lot of stress, pain and teasing.

“In primary school I started to get left behind and then in Year 10 I was told I didn’t have the curriculum to finish so ended up repeating,” she said.

“I used to get people at home and my friends to help me but I didn’t have this personalised support when I went to school.

“I ended up hating school as I got teased all the time. It was soul destroying.”

Out of every negative there is a positive – sometimes you just need to dig deep to find it.

It took Cynthia a long time to seek help to improve her literacy skills.

Cynthia said she had to get staff at the chemist to put a mark on the packet of how much medicine she was to give her son so she wasn’t overdosing her child.

“My eight-year-old son is a really clever little boy and prompted me to improve my literacy skills so I could help him with his homework,” she said.

“Prior to attending the adult literacy course at Sunshine Coast Libraries I was scared to even visit a library or pick up a paper as I couldn’t read.

“Now that I can read it makes me very proud as I can help my son with his homework.

“I would like to say a big thank you to all the adult literacy tutors who have assisted me during my tutoring.

“To obtain my very first certificate of participation in the Adult Literacy Program means the world to me.

“I will put this in a frame and display for everyone to see and hold my head up high with great pride.”

This is just one of the many stories that come from the inspirational people who attend the Sunshine Coast Libraries Adult Literacy Program.

To find out more, visit and search ‘adult literacy’.