Have You Seen Rita?

Have You Seen Rita?

What she lacks in animation, Rita DeBook makes up for in character.

That’s “character,” as in a novel, or a Facebook and Twitter personality.

Rita DeBook — say that out loud to get the pun — is a red-hatted mannequin meant to help Londoners learn why literacy matters.

Every Thursday this summer, starting today, she will be placed at a strategic public place in London and area.

Her Facebook page and Twitter account will provide clues to her whereabouts. (Major hint for this week: check out Wortley Village in Old South.)

And those who find her doing something literate — maybe texting a friend on her phone, or reading a recipe — can phone a Rita hotline to become eligible to win gift certificates.

Ask someone what literacy is and they’ll probably think about a child enjoying a book, says Amanda Burdick, who is with the social marketing committee of Literacy Link South Central, one of the sponsoring partners.

But Rita DeBook will help people see that reading is about more than recreation.

“We’re just trying to get people to see it in a different way,” she said.

The ability to read, to decode instructions and act on them, “is in everything we do,” said Burdick — from following recipes and prescriptions to operating a cash register and getting on the right bus at the right time.

Contestants don’t need to read well to join the contest, either: the website also has an audio component that’ll help with the clues.

Burdick calls it a sort of human scavenger hunt

A winner will be drawn every Thursday at 4 p.m. at the Fresh FM radio summer cruiser.

As many as four in 10 Ontarians need to upgrade their literacy skills to get and keep a job and to manage routine daily activities of their lives.

That’s why partners in the Rita project also include the London Middlesex Oxford Local Training Board, London Public Library, Literacy London, Elgin St. Thomas Public Health, United Way of London and Middlesex and Frontier College.

E-mail deb [dot] vanbrenk [at] sunmedia [dot] ca or follow Debatlfpress on Twitter.