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One is Never Too Young to Enjoy Books

Joe loves books. His favourite is Baby says peekaboo! a board book he received at the Books for Babies program he and his mom attended in the fall. He loves the mirror on the last page and squeals and reaches for it every time he sees it.

Joe and his mom are one of hundreds of families that attend the Books for Babies program each year. The program was one of the first offered by the Centre. It began as an initiative that just gave books to new moms and encouraged them to read to their babies. It has evolved over the years and now is a four-week program that emphasizes the importance of the relationship between the parent and child in developing early literacy and language experiences.

Facilitators in the program help parents understand how babies learn and how the parent and child are tied together in the learning process. The program is not about teaching children to read. It is about sharing books as a wonderful way to help children with their language development and a great opportunity to share a cuddle at the same time.

In partnership with Alberta Health Services’ Health for Two program, Books for Babies is included in some of their prenatal classes. Providing information and guidance prior to the birth of their baby helps new moms understand the importance of sharing books with their baby. They learn that reading stories and singing songs to their unborn child has a positive effect once the baby is born. Research has shown that babies remember these songs and stories and are often calmed by these familiar sounds after their birth.

Knowing that dads play an important role in their child’s literacy and language development, the Centre has begun to offer Books for Babies programs for dads on Saturday mornings as well as some evenings. Darren Hinger, Books for Babies Coordinator says,

"Dads feel more comfortable when there are more men in the group. They open up and ask more questions. There is more of an opportunity to make connections with other dads and other community groups."

He helps them find books like “Daddy Calls Me Doodlebug” that depict dads in the stories.

The Books for Babies program emphasizes that the most important reason to read aloud is that it makes a connection between the things their baby loves – their parent’s voice and the closeness to them. And, if babies are read to often with pleasure, excitement, and joy, they begin to associate books with happiness and budding readers are created.


Breakfast Celebrates the Importance of Family Literacy

Dr. David Atkinson, President of MacEwan University, was the guest speaker at the Centre’s annual Leading with Literacy Breakfast. In his presentation Dr. Atkinson stated, “The issue of literacy is as much a broad social issue incorporating culture, social position, and economic wellbeing as it is a basic skill. So, not to invest in literacy is to short change everyone’s future. Not to make the most fundamental requirement of the good life – the ability to communicate – one of our highest priorities is truly shortsighted.”

Following Dr. Atkinson’s speech, the Lois Hole Memorial Literacy Award nominees were honoured. After hearing their stories and their acceptance speeches, those in attendance were moved and inspired by their dedication and commitment.

The recipient of the Adult Learner Award was Jian Mei Zhu. She and her tutor have been working together for the past 18 months. In that time Jian Mei has achieved many milestones that are reflected in the significant improvement in her speaking, reading, and writing skills. Her determination to learn and unflagging optimism make Jian Mei a worthy recipient of this award.

The winner of the Family Learner Award was Jennifer Strid. She has faced many challenges in her life as a single mom with limited family support, raising two children on an AISH income, and she doesn’t drive. But she is determined to give her children a better life than she had by being involved in their activities – finding low cost programs for them to attend such as the C.O.W. Bus program. She never stops trying and we are confident she will make things better for herself and her children.

Jim Hutton was the winner of the Lois Hole Award for Community Leadership. His passion is evident to anyone who has met him, whether in a social setting, business environment or a community gathering. His network is vast and he doesn’t hesitate to recruit curling and golf buddies, or engineering co-workers, to attend the Centre’s fundraising events, join committees, and become Board members.

He is a staunch supporter and funder of the local C.O.W. Bus program. His support for family literacy and early intervention programs extends beyond his involvement with the Centre. Jim supports eight Edmonton Catholic Schools in high needs communities. His support has enabled many children to attend pre-Kindergarten (100 Voices) programs that work closely with the family and offer rich literacy experiences.

Congratulations to the finalists and winners.

Jian Mei Zhu
Jennifer Strid
Jim Hutton

Social-Emotional Development Supports Success in School

"A child’s ability to learn and to function as a contributing member of society rests heavily on the development of social competency and emotional health that begins at birth and is greatly influenced during the preschool years. "

There are a number of important factors that determine a child’s readiness for school including their intellectual skills, motivational qualities, and their social-emotional skills.

According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, “Knowing the ABCs is not enough. To be prepared for school, children also must be excited and curious about learning and confident that they can succeed (motivational qualities). They must be able to understand the feelings of others, control their own feelings and behaviours, and get along with their peers and teachers.”

The development of social-emotional skills in the early years provides a child with the tools they need to function in school and later in the workplace. The National Institute for Early Education Research states, “A child’s ability to learn and to function as a contributing member of society rests heavily on the development of social competency and emotional health that begins at birth and is greatly influenced during the preschool years.”

The home is a child’s first learning environment and parents who model sharing, being helpful, and expressing feelings will help their child learn that this is how they should interact with other people.

Reinforcing a child’s good social behaviour through praise makes the child feel good about himself, develops self-confidence, and plays an important role in developing a sense of empathy. Cooperation is a skill a child learns through direct interaction with other children. Playing with other children provides an opportunity to learn patience, the ability to share, and supports problem-solving.

Family literacy programs operate at all three levels by encouraging the development of intellectual, emotional, and social skills within the family setting. Parents are shown how these skills develop in the context of ordinary everyday activities and that learning is an ongoing interaction between themselves and their child.

There are a number of resources for parents that provide information on understanding a child’s social-emotional development. The Zero to Three, PBS, and Get Ready to Read websites provide practical tips and suggestions.


Carnival Celebrates Family Literacy

For most folks carnivals are a place to wander, explore, participate, and just have fun – maybe even bring home a prize.

Families did just that at the second annual Family Literacy Carnival held on Sunday, January 26th in celebration of National Family Literacy Day. The event was hosted by the Golden Key International Honour Student Society of MacEwan University and the Centre for Family Literacy.

A series of interactive stations focused on science, music, health, play, technology, and math, were set up on the main floor of the Robbins Health Centre. Each station offered a variety of activities that families could do together to support literacy and learning.

The families wandered from station to station at their own pace participating in activities ranging from finger weaving at the Aboriginal station to playing educational games on computers. Throughout the afternoon the Centre Stage featured guest readers including MacEwan University President Dr. David Atkinson and Mayor Don Iveson.

The kids weren’t the only ones having fun – parents were seen trying to get the hoola hoop moving around their hips or helping their children with puzzles involving numbers and musical instruments.

Several families attended the Carnival last year and were back again this year. As one mom said, “It’s a good way to spend a Sunday afternoon that is both fun and a learning experience. I am learning new ways to help my kids with puzzles and games.”

Each family was given a passport which was stamped after they visited a station. When they had four or more stamps, they could present their passport at the Centre’s station to receive a complimentary book. The Edmonton Public Library was also at the event and provided families with free library cards.

The event was fun for the whole family and the Centre and the Golden Key Honour Society of MacEwan University are looking forward to organizing it again next year.