With the help of Raise-a-Reader, young moms in Delta are able to take home books for their children.
“Having the books more easily accessible at home helps moms read to their children and develop their reading and writing skills,” said Rupinder Sandhu, a family support worker at Boys and Girls Club South Coast B.C.
Along with Deltassist, BGC South Coast B.C. began the Growing and Learning Together program in 2019 to help young mothers with information sessions about various aspects of child-rearing. The Delta Community Literacy Committee came on board to arrange sessions on the importance of early literacy, offering virtual workshops with a children’s librarian.
The committee also purchased children’s books through Raise-a-Reader funds to give to the moms.
“A librarian used the books we had purchased to demonstrate to the moms how to get their children excited about books, how to use rhyme and song and how to engage a young child simply using the pictures,” said Sandhu.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the sooner a parent starts reading to their infant, the better.
“Major milestones for oral language and vocabulary happen between birth and three years,” said Heather Turner, M.Ed., quoted at verywellfamily.com. “Reading aloud in the child’s first years builds their vocabulary, their knowledge about the world, and the sounds and patterns of written language — all of which lay a solid foundation for literacy.”
Following the sessions with the librarian, each parent is given a set of six to seven books and a puppet.
“One young mom told us that she had learned so much and was so thrilled to have such good quality books,” Sandhu said. “She said that good quality books are very expensive and now she has her own to take wherever they go.”
Many of the young mothers face barriers and are under the age of 25. Over 20 moms have participated in the Growing and Learning Together program.
Annika, 20, says that the literacy sessions “have helped in so many ways. We spend more time as a family reading. We read to our kids every night.”
Annika has a two-month-old and is stepmother to a four- and a seven-year-old.
“They really like Robert Munsch,” she said. “They love silly books. We read a book every night, sometimes three. When we put the four-year-old down, we all read to her. Her dad and I take turns reading and we bring the baby in.”
Among her son’s favourite books is Munsch’s I Love You Forever.
“I’ve probably read it to him 50 times by now,” she said. “I almost have it memorized. He likes seeing the little kid. He sees a similarity.”
Aisha, another Growing and Learning Together participant, has two kids, an 11-month-old girl and three-year-old-boy. Since joining the program, the 24-year-old mom has started reading to them every day.
“I didn’t know that you’re supposed to read to them from birth,” she said. “I did it more with my second child and she’s more focussed than my son.”
How to donate
Since its launch in 1997, Raise-a-Reader has provided more than $21 million to promote literacy in B.C. The literacy campaign supports programs across the province such as Partners in Education Plus, which is offered by the Canucks Family Education Centre. The Canucks Centre offers literacy programs for families through intergenerational and lifelong learning support that are partly supported by Raise-a-Reader.
You can make a donation any time. Here’s how:
• Online at raiseareader.com
• By phone, at 604.681.4199
• By cheque, payable to Vancouver Sun Raise-a-Reader:
1125 Howe St., #980
Vancouver, B.C. V6Z 2K8
Literacy is a tool everyone needs
The literacy skills of almost half of British Columbians aged 16 to 65 may make it difficult for them to understand newspapers, following instruction manuals, reading health information, filling out a tax return, reading a rental agreement or using a library catalogue, according to Decoda Literacy Solutions, B.C.’s provincial literacy organization.
And about half of the province’s population of the same age may have difficulty calculating interest on a car loan, using information on a graph or determining medicine dosage, according to Decoda, which provides resources, training, funds and support for community-based literacy programs and initiatives in 400-plus B.C. communities.
Some 16 per cent of British Columbians (or 700,000) were at a Level 1 literacy or below in 2012, according to an international survey (the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies) that 27,000 Canadians participated in.
Level 1 literacy means struggling with filling out a form at work, navigating a website, finding information in a list sent home from preschool, using information on a food label or comparison shopping.
It says improved literacy at home can help Canadians enjoy better health, manage their finances, understand their rights and responsibilities and legal proceedings and pass on their literacy skills to their children.
At work, it can also improve employment prospects, increase earnings, decrease work-related stress by being more efficient and accurate at work, and increasing their likelihood of participating in adult education and job-related training.
And in the community, it can increase community participation and volunteering, political involvement and increase the likelihood of inclusion in society.
Raise-a-Reader has been raising awareness and funds for the literacy community in B.C. since 1997
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