Every year, ABC Life Literacy Canada (ABC) celebrates Family Literacy Day in January. Family Literacy Day is an awareness-building platform that allows ABC to talk about the importance of family literacy in Canada. For Family Literacy Day 2014, ABC decided to address the challenge of tracking engagement in order to measure participation across the country.

The theme of Family Literacy Day 2014, which is celebrated nationally on January 27th, was 15 Minutes of Fun. Through the activities offered and communications delivered, this theme emphasized the importance of taking time each day to engage in a literacy-related activity as a family. According to Heather Cosentino, Communications Specialist at ABC, the target audience is parents who are not practicing literacy with their children, categorized in two ways:

  1. Low-literate or parents for whom English or French is a second language, who don’t have confidence, command of English/French, or skills to learn with or teach children
  2.  Literate parents who don’t make time for learning activities with their kids


To reach the target audience, who may not be easily accessible online and through traditional media, and in order to extend outreach, the communications team at ABC partnered with:

National/provincial/territorial literacy organizations: to share materials, messaging and resources through grassroots literacy programs and to reach the adult learner parent and encourage engagement in literacy activities with their kids.

Existing Family Literacy Day supporters such as schools, libraries, community centres, etc: to share messaging and resources with school-aged children to take home and engage parents in learning activities.

Social services organizations to share family literacy social media messaging and resources with online audiences.


Measuring participation and engagement

Cosentino describes the three main steps taken by ABC to measure engagement and participation in Family Literacy Day:

1. Promotion of online Family Literacy Day event registration at FamilyLiteracyDay.ca
“ABC has been measuring participation in this way for several years, but this year we tried to increase registration by sharing the online info with partners and supporters to reach a greater audience. Also, to increase registration, we offered early bird prizes to those who submitted event info to the website up to three weeks in advance of Family Literacy Day.”

2. Creation of a new hashtag: #15MinutesofFun
“We extended this year’s theme to all online communications by creating the #15MinutesofFun hashtag and encouraging groups and individuals to tweet about how they were celebrating Family Literacy Day. This was extremely successful as we were able to get a sense of the big picture across Canada as thousands of parents and families celebrated Family Literacy Day.”

3. Tracking media mentions of Family Literacy Day
“Through our media monitoring services, we were able to keep track of local Family Literacy Day events taking place in smaller communities all across Canada. We were able to see evidence of Family Literacy Day being celebrated in every province and two territories in Canada.”


Additional measurement challenges to address

Despite their successes with measurement this year, ABC still faces two significant measurement challenges:

1. When measuring participation online, one of ABC’s primary audiences for Family Literacy Day – low literacy adult learners – don’t engage online because low literacy skills are often a barrier to online engagement. To address this, ABC aims to capture participation of this audience through the results of surveys, which are distributed to local literacy centres all across Canada. These surveys are more successful when they are shorter in length and offer multiple choice style questions.

2. Reaching – and measuring engagement with – those adult learners with low literacy who may not already be enrolled in a literacy program. To reach this audience ABC also placed targeted ads in traditional media outlets that are accessible to low literacy adult learners. This was extremely successful and ABC received calls from many adult learners who saw the ads and reached out individually.


The results

By measuring engagement in the ways described above, ABC Life Literacy was able to efficiently quantify participation in a way that they hadn’t done before and the information gave the organization an overview of the national participation.

  • There were over 500 Family Literacy Day events registered on FamilyLiteracyDay.ca in 2014. These events took place all across Canada, including each of the 10 provinces and two of the territories.
  • The #15MinutesofFun hashtag was used 447 times on Twitter during the month of January, which shows active participation by ABC’s online audiences.
  • Based on survey feedback, ABC has determined that on average 20 individuals participated in Family Literacy Day events (up from 15 last year), which shows that these events are growing in size and reach.
  • One hundred percent of survey respondents indicated that they planned to participate in Family Literacy Day again in 2015.


Plans for measuring effectiveness of future Family Literacy Days

“Going forward, ABC plans to continue to develop innovative strategies to measure participation in Family Literacy Day,” explains Cosentino. “This will include development of online tools and resources that help to track and measure engagement. ABC also hopes to explore additional tactics to connect with low literacy adult learners and hard-to-reach families, who may not be aware of Family Literacy Day and the local literacy programs that are available to them.”


Marlene Oliveira

Marlene Oliveira

Communications advisor and copywriter at moflow
Marlene Oliveira is communications consultant and copywriter at moflow and founder of the Nonprofit MarCommunity blog. Having worked in the nonprofit sector since 1999, Marlene specializes in working with capacity building and grant-making organizations, advising on communications strategy, and writing stories and other content.
Marlene Oliveira
Marlene Oliveira