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C.O.W. Bus Visit a Real Treat for the Whole Family

The day before Halloween the local C.O.W bus was full of energy and excitement. Jacob, Simon and their mom Marnie were captivated by an interactive story about a witch’s house made of construction paper. Jacob was involved in the story, telling Janice, the C.O.W. Bus coordinator, that the witch needed doors and windows cut into her house. When the story was finished the paper was unfolded to reveal the face of a jack-o-lantern.

Activities like this are favourites on the bus and give children the opportunity to expand their vocabulary, develop their oral storytelling skills and learn to solve problems.

Marnie has been coming to the bus for about two years. Simon was only four days old when he first visited the bus with his older brother Jacob, who will be heading off to Kindergarten next year. Marnie says that Jacob often asks her “when is the C.O.W bus coming?” and is sad that next year he won’t be able to go because he will be in school. She has noticed that her children have a greater appreciation for books and says that they are much more attentive when she and her husband read to them.

The C.O.W. bus makes it easy for Marnie to access new books for her children, and she likes that it is kid focused. “It is smaller than a library and less intimidating. The kids don’t have to be quiet, and they are never wrong”. She appreciates the positive atmosphere in which they can learn and explore. She also loves how “parents help each other. Other parents are good resources to learn from”.

Marnie’s favourite memory on the bus is a reading of “Goldie Locks and the Three Bears” in singsong rhythm. “The children that don’t normally sit still were silent”, she said. When Jacob was asked what his favourite thing on the bus was, he said “the books”. When asked to pick a favourite he couldn’t and said, “I like them all”.

To watch the video of the “Goldie Locks and the Three Bears” performance on the C.O.W bus, as well as other videos from the CFL, go to http://youtube.com/user/CentreFamlit


Early Experiences Influence Brain Development

There is more known about brain development now than ever before. From pre-natal to adulthood, our brains keep growing and changing and are affected adversely or positively by our experiences.

At the Alberta Early Years Conference in September, the keynote speakers for the last morning were three world-renowned researchers from the Canadian Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience, University of Lethbridge: Dr. Bryan Kolb, Dr. Robbin Gibb and Dr. Sergio Pellis.

Dr. Kolb started the session by explaining the principles of brain development (of which there are 11 according to his presentation). With 80 billion neurons and 1014 connections in the brain, one of the most significant points he made is that these connections are always being sculpted and discarded by the experiences we have, especially during critical times in the first few years of life, but continuing on into adulthood.

He went through each principle, with examples of how they work and their importance in the development of a healthy brain. Principle nine, in particular, stood out to those of us in the literacy field – “Brain development is related to literacy”.

"Relationship building is a requirement for ensuring the ‘success’ of children.”

Dr. Kolb presented a study done by Hart & T. Risley, “Meaningful Differences in Everyday Experiences of Young American Children, 1995”, that examined how children’s exposure to vocabulary in the first three years set a trajectory for those children in life long learning. It found that the more words children knew, the more upward the trajectory, while those with little vocabulary were on a much lower trajectory.

He also presented a New Zealand Education Study where 90% of children at age 5 who were in the top 25% in reading and mathematics were still there at age 14, while 90% of children at age 5 in the lower 25% were still there at age 14. More and more, research is showing how important literacy and learning is in the early years because it sets the stage for lifelong learning.

Dr. Gibb presented on research showing the significant links between experiences and relationships and brain development. She stated that “Early experience alters developmental trajectories: either downwards or upwards” and “Relationship building is a requirement for ensuring the ‘success’ of children”. Dr. Pellis examined the effect of social, rough and tumble play on brain development and presented the conclusion that “play is the vehicle by which the relevant areas of the brain are trained, either directly or indirectly to enhance social skills”.

This research is undeniably connected to the theory of family literacy and the outcomes of programs. Family literacy programs provide opportunities for positive interactions, relationship building, learning, socialization and, as a result, are helping to create environments for healthy brain development. It is incredible to see it validated in such a way.

For more information on the Canadian Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience go to http://ccbn.uleth.ca


Centre Announces Keynote Speaker for Leading with Literacy Breakfast

Todd Hirsch, Senior Economist with ATB Financial, author and economic commentator, stated in a recent column that “Literacy is not a special interest group – it’s a fundamental economic necessity. This is of particular urgency in Alberta where labour shortages and faltering productivity threaten to put the brakes on the country’s fastest growing economy.”

Mr. Hirsch will share his perspectives and insights at the Centre’s Leading with Literacy Breakfast on Thursday, January 24, 2013 at the Westin Hotel in Edmonton. The Leading with Literacy Breakfast is an annual event that coincides with National Family Literacy Day. The 2013 winners of the Lois Hole Memorial Literacy Awards will also be announced at the breakfast.

To purchase tickets please go to http://leadingwithliteracy2013.eventbrite.ca


Enjoy the Winter Season

Over and Under the Snow written by Kate Messner and illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal is a wonderful winter book that tells of a father and daughter skiing through the hushed winter  white landscape. All the while, underneath their skis is the secret world of mice, bees and other woodland inhabitants. The book answers many childrens’ questions about what happens to the small creatures during the cold wintertime.

Over and Under the Snow makes a good starting point for learning more about winter habitats, life cycles, camouflage, insects and amphibians.

  • Visit a nature centre with your child to find out more about the natural world in your area.
  • Make a book with your child of different animals, birds and insects that live in your area. Have your child either draw or cut out images from magazines for pictures.
  • Use paints or crayons to make over and under the snow pictures with your child. Paint or colour the trees, sky and woodland creatures and glue on coffee grounds for dirt. 
  • Do a winter activity such as skiing or skating with friends. Afterwards, if the weather is mild, have a winter picnic or bonfire. 
Winter offers a great opportunity to have fun and explore the natural world with your child. There are many wonderful winter books and activities that you can share that will engage your child’s imagination and build their literacy and language skills. Enjoy the winter season!


Support Families on Their Literacy Journey

"I believe reading can change lives. The Centre's programs let children learn and become all they are meant to become."
- Donor

Your donation will help ensure that parents can provide their children with positive early learning experiences.

A gift to the Centre will make a lasting difference!

$ 25 – 2 quality board books for a baby
$ 50 – a book bag and 3 books for a family
$100 – craft supplies for one family literacy program
$200 – puzzles and games for one family literacy program
$300 – fuel for the local C.O.W. Bus for one month

Now there are three easy ways to donate to the Centre for Family Literacy either with a one-time donation or a monthly donation:

• On-line through CanadaHelps.org
• By phone: 780-423-7323 or 1-866-423-7323
• By mail: Centre for Family Literacy, 11642 142 St, Edmonton, AB T5M 1V4

We accept donations by Visa, MasterCard or cheque.