Put yourself in the shoes of a Canadian adult with literacy skills below the level needed to succeed in today's society and imagine what a day would be like.
No reading directions, cooking instructions or books to your kids before bed, and you can forget about writing your family an email or a postcard.
The Vancouver Canucks took part in the fight to eliminate functional illiteracy Wednesday by participating in 13th annual Raise-A-Reader Day, a Canada-wide initiative that generates funds for family literacy programs.
Volunteers in 27 cities across the country took to the streets Wednesday morning selling special edition newspapers for donations to Raise-A-Reader.
Who better to help generate buzz than Alex Burrows, Sami Salo and Rick Rypien?
Each player was on a different corner and each had a different technique of selling papers.
Burrows undoubtedly sold the most papers as his corner at Georgia and Granville put Beatlemania to shame. Everyone wanted a paper, an autograph and a picture; everyone wanted a piece of the Canucks forward and he was happy to play a part for such a worthy cause.
Growing up with an elementary school principal for a mother had Burrows up to his neck in books from the time he could read.
“It was something where at a really young age she’d read stories to us and stuff like that and as we got older she made sure we were reading some books, she really guided us into that kind of stuff,” said Burrows.
“I think it’s good, I’ve really always liked reading, especially autobiographies about athletes and what they do to have good games and that kind of stuff. Right now I just finished Andre Agassi’s book Open and I thought that was really entertaining too.
“Oh and I love everything from Derek Jory on Canucks.com.”
There was no hysteria around Salo’s corner, but he still made a killing in sales by following the old saying location, location, location.
Standing at the top of the escalader at the Burrard Subway station, those getting their day started got a pleasant surprise at the top in a smiling Salo and few turned down buying a paper from him. Clearly the defenceman knows a thing or two about sales.
Same goes for Rypien, although his strategy was a pinch more aggressive.
At the corner of Robson and Thurlow, Rypien was a long ways from the popular transit routes, so he took matters into his own hands by literally playing frogger between cars to deliver papers to motorists stopped at red lights.
It was an impressive effort to say the least, one that didn’t go unnoticed by Jean Rasmussen, director of the Canucks Family Education Centre (CFEC). Rasmussen has been a part of this event since its inception in 1997 and she’s seen first hand the positive impact it has on literacy across B.C.
“This is a very special day because it gives us an opportunity to get out there to talk to the public about the kinds of work that we’re doing to support intergenerational learning,” she explained.
“At the Canucks Family Education Centre, we focus primarily on the adults that have not completed high school or new immigrants that have not had an opportunity to upgrade their English so that they can actually talk to the teachers in the school, work in the community and feel comfortable about their lives in Canada.”
CFEC opened in 2002 after the Canucks recognized a need to improve family literacy in Greater Vancouver and now delivers four targeted programs serving over 500 children and families in seven elementary school literacy centres in Vancouver's eastside.
All the funds from Raise-A-Reader Day go directly to help CFEC help others.
“One of the things that we try to do is eliminate all those barriers so that people can come to programs, so we provide bus tickets and child minding and early learning programs and classes for the adults and all of that takes money,” said Rasmussen, adding that literacy is key to creating a strong, informed, active, healthy and engaged community.
“If you can’t read, you can’t function in your life. It’s a different between having success with an individual, a child and a family, or not. And there’s a bottom line, if we don’t have literate citizens in this country, we’re not going to be able to move forward, so it’s absolutely essential.”
Victor de Bonis, chief operating officer for the Canucks, echoed these sentiments as he tried to compete for sales with Burrows, whom the crowd seemed more interested in.
“The generosity of the community towards all the things that we care about just flows through when you see the amount of money that gets raised in our community, it’s just wonderful and not only for this program, but all the things that we do through the Canucks for Kids Fund,” de Bonis said.
“It’s very humbling and overwhelming to think about all the money that we’ve raised.”
The final tally of funds generated Wednesday won’t be revealed until later in the week, but if the Canucks were able to help produce a dollar for every autograph signed by Burrows, Salo and Rypien, the day will have been a success.
A special congratulations to Jessica Hoffman, community partnerships and education coordinator with the Vancouver Canucks, who was awarded the 2010 Linda Mitchell Memorial Raise-A-Reader Award on Wednesday for her tireless dedication to this great cause.