Literacy is more about navigating the world than just learning your one-two-threes or a-b-cs.
On Jan. 26, in celebration of Family Literacy Week as proclaimed by the provincial government from Jan. 22 to 29, local specialists on early childhood development gathered in Vanderhoof Public Library to share their knowledge about the importance of early skill building, body communication, and learning by play.
“Literacy is not limited to reading and writing; it emcompasses all of the environment,” said Meghan Walker, adult learning coordinator at the College of New Caledonia in Vanderhoof. “Being able to shake hands, make eye contact, as well as cultural literacy.
“With a good foundation, we can continue to gain skills that allow us to confidently navigate the world around us.”
As a client over 70 years old indicated, work in the 20th century was available for those who don’t have strong skills in reading and writing.
“But now you need tickets, people find it challenging to find work, and life became stressful,” Walker said. “Having these skills early on are important.”
CNC currently offers free programs for adult learners including computer classes, English, and numeracy.
Speech pathologist Megan Young echoed the idea of literacy in the raw social context and referenced communication assessments in Vancouver, where the substantial immigrant population means that most kids do not know English at first.
To promote communication learning from toddler age, Young said caregivers can get involved with what kids are noticing and share their attention, allow them to direct their positive or negative emotions by looking at their caregiver, and eventually coordinate sounds, gestures, and behaviour to achieve a goal.
Learning can be an opportunity for shared enjoyment, such as parents reading to kids or using picture books for engaging interactions, she added.
Whichever way the communication is facilitated — “Sometimes parents have more in their back pocket than they gave themselves credit for” — the overall message is to be caring, consistent, and sensitive, she said.
Amanda Wiebe, infant development consultant for Nechako Valley Community Services, also stresses the importance of bonding, eye contact, songs and rhymes, rather than the fancy toys kids play with.
While many kids in the technological age learn quickly how to swipe smart phones and tablets, there are much to be taught with blocks, boxes, and teddy bears.
“I really encourage play with little ones, works with their language, expression, communication and movement, imagination,” Wiebe said. “Ask questions, let the child to be the leader in playing, and if they’re stuck, give them ideas. Let them experiment.”
Everything can be made into a game, incorporating kids into adults’ life including house chores, and books can be enjoyed by changing the ending, she added.
Library Jane Gray introduced the various programs offered by the library, from puppet theatre to book clubs, and the programs also give parents the opportunity to meet others and get out of the house.
For Lorna Ephrom of Vanderhoof, the session was an opportunity to learn about the services available in Vanderhoof. She will be sharing some of the information she gathered to her daugher-in-law, who is a special education teacher.