Throughout her five years of working at the Centre for Family Literacy in Edmonton, Alberta, Program Director Kim Chung has seen remarkable achievements in the field, including having witnessed entire communities blossom as a result of participating in family literacy programs.
“These programs are incredibly important and appropriate for anyone who has children,” says Chung. She adds that even parents with high education levels might not know how to apply literacy skills when dealing with children every day, so these programs are beneficial to all Canadian parents.
Family literacy is the way parents and children use literacy and language in their daily lives. It encompasses how families learn, how parents improve their skills to help their kids develop strong literacy levels, and how families use literacy to maintain relationships with each other and with the community.
Family literacy programs are offered in communities all over Canada and are directed towards parents to provide them with tools and strategies to support their children’s learning on a daily basis.
“Parents are a child’s first teacher. Research has shown that when parents know how to support their kids through literacy from birth, children become more successful at school,” Chung points out.
Family literacy programs are usually free and open to the general public. They provide positive experiences around learning and promote family bonding. Parents learn tips on how to incorporate learning in everyday activities with their children, such as folding the laundry, for example. This simple chore can be fun and useful to teach kids how to count, help them identify different colours and also to teach new words, such as bigger and smaller, clean and dirty.
Family bonding is also an important outcome of family literacy programs. According to participants in Peel Region’s Family Literacy Workshops in Ontario, parents started to read more often with their children, had more books and reading materials at home and increased the amount of educational TV that they watched as a family.
When parents come to a family literacy program looking for help, trained volunteers, childhood educators or teachers will analyze their current situation – what they know, and what they want to learn. This is all taken into consideration when directing parents and children to each specific program.
Family literacy initiatives involve three different levels: the intellectual level, where vocabulary and other learning tools are used; the emotional level, stimulating participants to play, touch and interact with their kids; and finally the social level, where parents can engage with other parents.
Five families who had participated in a family literacy program in Edmonton 12 years ago still remain friends – a testament that many positive results are achieved on various levels for everyone.
As surprising as it may seem, even in a developed country like Canada, 40 per cent of adults still struggle with reading, writing and math. Family literacy programs are a great and safe way for families to increase their confidence and skills.
On January 27, 2012, Canada will celebrate Family Literacy Day®. Millions of Canadians will take the learning journey with their families, schools and communities.
Embrace the power of family literacy with your family by attending an event in your community, checking out a local family literacy program or setting aside time to learn at home. For more information, visit www.FamilyLiteracyDay.ca.
Family Literacy Day, held annually on January 27, was developed by ABC Life Literacy Canada in 1999 to celebrate adults and children reading and learning together, and to encourage Canadians to spend at least 15 minutes enjoying a learning activity as a family every day.
ABC Life Literacy Canada envisions a Canada where everyone has the skills they need to live a fully engaged life. For the latest news and information on adult literacy please visit www.abclifeliteracy.ca, or stay connected with us through Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.