I think I have one of the best jobs ever! Why? I get to work in family literacy programs.
Family literacy is all about learning together and understanding all the different ways families support each other. Of course reading and writing are part of what we talk about, but we also talk about all the things they need in order to be ready to learn! Reading is the foundation
Learning to read is complex, but its foundation comes from all of our first interactions within our families and with the people closest to us. All the experiences we have singing songs, playing games, going for walks and talking about what we see, as well as exploring our world becomes the “prior knowledge” our children need. Prior knowledge is key to helping us understand what we are reading.Parents play a key role
One of my favourite things that I get to do in family literacy programs is talk to parents about all the great things they are already doing to support their child’s learning. There is a great deal of pressure from media sources, such as television and the internet, to purchase items that will teach children ABC’s or will make them better students. Savvy marketing tells us that if we buy certain toys, electronics, apps and software our children will be brilliant! In fact, there are some great tools out there. However, the evidence tells us that having a parent or close family member talking, reading and singing with children will have a far greater impact on creating a foundation for learning. We know that families play a crucial role in learning that cannot be replaced by a toy or an app. Let technology help
There are lots of great gadgets and apps for your phone, tablet or computer to help with learning. But even those tools work best with a parent to encourage the learning! So keep doing the great things you already do with your children….
- read a great story,
- play “I Spy”,
- sing a favourite song together,
- check out an app,
- follow a recipe,
and encourage your child to be curious by answering their many questions!
Oh yeah, and call your local Community Literacy Coordinator
to find out about family literacy programs in your area.
Posted by Tracy Spannier
The government recently announced its intention to provide federal grants to retrain unemployed workers under the “Canada Job Grant”. This is great news; however, the Ottawa Citizen had an interesting article on the inefficacy of a program like this if an important element was overlooked. Can you guess what that element was?
Why literacy, of course!
According to the Ottawa Citizen, Ontario’s $1.3 billion “Second Career” program was unsuccessful in assisting the people it was designed to help. The reason? Many of the workers needing skill upgrades also had low literacy skills. Targeting specific skills isn’t enough; a comprehensive literacy-based program is necessary to help workers become resilient in our quickly changing economy.
What is “resiliency”? Strong literacy skills allow us to learn and adapt. Without the ability to comprehend a variety of texts, use the computer, communicate clearly orally and in writing, and engage in lifelong learning, we have little chance of keeping up with demands of a knowledge-based economy. With these skills, we have the tools to learn when we need to learn. A workforce of individuals who can accomplish this independently is much more valuable than a workforce that constantly needs specific skill upgrades. That is resiliency.
So, here's to the "Canada Job Grant" and all that it hopes to accomplish. A focus on literacy will definitely give it wings, and result in a strong Canadian economy!
To read “Literacy is the foundation for skills training” in the Ottawa Citizen, visit http://www.ottawacitizen.com/opinion/editorials/Literacy+foundation+skills+training/8179741/story.html
To learn more about literacy programs in your area, please contact your local Community Literacy Coordinator
By Leah Wilkie
Verbal communication is very important in our personal and professional lives. In my experience, individuals with the ability to communicate clearly are often given more opportunities than those without. Sometimes, the talents, intelligence, and skills of a person can be overlooked because he doesn’t present well verbally. Conversely, a highly verbal individual can be credited with more skills and abilities than he has because of his strong communication skills. Regardless of the real state of things, having the ability to communicate well orally impacts a person’s journey through the work world.
One of the nine Essential Skills is “Oral Communication”. It is considered one of the fundamental skills needed in workforce, and a skill that most jobs require. On the Human Resources and Skills Development website, there are several resources available to help improve communication skills. There is a self-assessment tool to gauge one’s strengths and weaknesses; a tip-sheet for improving oral communication; and a workshop that employers can use to help employees fine-tune their skills.
Here are a few questions from the self-assessment to give you an idea of what constitutes “oral communication”:
- Ask complex questions to get appropriate information.
- Communicate with others to resolve minor conflicts, like customer complaints.
- Communicate with others to coordinate work or resolve problems.
The assessment has several other indicators and is fairly in-depth. As it progresses, the skills listed become more and more complex. Not only is this a good tool to assess one’s skills, but it also gives some great guidelines on what to strive for.
Because oral communication is an overt skill, it really is one worth working on. The effort could produce opportunities for advancement more quickly than you think!
To check out the Essential Skills website, go to http://www.hrsdc.gc.ca/eng/workplaceskills/LES/tools_resources/tools.shtml
If you require personal assistance with your communication skills, visit your nearest WorkBC
office, or contact your local Community Literacy Coordinator
By Leah Wilkie
It is drizzling. Again…or is it still? It is Fernie in the spring. I should be used to this by now. Summer doesn’t really arrive here until July – I’ve even said this before in another blog post. Thank goodness for Spring Break!
If I were a child going on Spring Break, I know I would spend my time reading. I remember how satisfying it was to open a new book, and have nothing to do for the afternoon except read – for hours. Seems like a luxury now!
What do you remember reading as a pre-adolescent? I remember being truly transported by "Anne of Green Gables", "Lord of the Rings", "The Babysitters’ Club", and "The Sheepfarmer’s Daughter". I even had a stint where I would read those “choose your own adventure” books. Some of what I read was trash, and some of it was truly amazing, but I think all of it engaged me more that my television did.
What are kids reading today? I listened to a former principal and motivational speaker give a talk on reading once. He said that when he was hiring teachers, he always asked them what they were reading currently. If they didn’t have an answer, he didn’t feel he could hire them. He also said that if teachers and caregivers did not take the time to read what the kids were reading, they would be missing out on a huge educational opportunity. So what are kids reading today?
The obvious ones are “The Hunger Games” and the “Twilight” series. I say that those are obvious because I have heard of them. I have even read “The Hunger Games” (I still can’t bring myself to delve into the world of vampires – shame on me as an educator, I know). According to “Good Reads”, some other popular books are “Divergent” by Veronica Roth, “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green, “Matched” by Ally Condie, “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson, and the “Harry Potter” series (of course). There are several other books on the list as well, so you should definitely check it out if you have teenagers. (http://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/teen
If you work with teenagers regularly, consider taking this Spring Break to read what they’re reading. You might be able to connect with them a bit better when you all go back to school and work – you might even learn something!
By Leah Wilkie
If there’s anything our kids have access to nowadays, it is screen time. My phone is the most useful tool I own, and one that I depend upon for many different things. Because I use it so frequently, I cannot keep my two-year old daughter from being fascinated by it.
And why shouldn’t she be? It acts as a phone, a television, a game console, and a book. If you had asked me a couple of weeks ago which one of those might be bad for my daughter, I would have said “television”. After all, it is passive entertainment that is detrimental to our children, right?
Unfortunately, studies are showing that both passive and active screen time activities are equally harmful for our children’s development. Not only does increased screen time affect physical health, it also impacts psychological development. It doesn’t matter if your child is passively watching Sesame Street, or actively playing a matching game. Screen time is not for kids.
The Canadian Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines recommend that children under the age of two have no access to screen time, and that children between the ages of 2 and 4 be limited to one hour per day (with emphasis on the less, the better). Older children should have no more than two hours of screen time, and should not spend long periods of time in sedentary activities. These recommendations are based on the physical health risks of sedentary behaviour alone, and do not address the brain development aspects of screen time.
) for the full version of the guidelines.
The Mayo Clinic lists other childhood problems linked with too much screen time: irregular sleep, behavioural problems, impaired academic performance, violence, and less time for creative play (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/children-and-tv/MY00522
). We have all witnessed these affects, and the link to screen time is unsurprising.
So, the bottom line? More creative, active play and less exposure to computers, smart phones, tablets, and televisions. As a caller on CBC radio put it the other day, “We all learned to use computers as adults and we’re doing fine.” Our children will have plenty of time to become computer savvy. Let’s give them the space to experience healthy brain development before we make them sit down and stare at a screen!
And to all you parents who are dreading the 5:00 rendition of “Mummy, up! Mummy, up!” because you have decided not put on the Berenstein Bears, I feel your pain! We’re all in it together. Good luck!
By Leah Wilkie
I have never been a part of a Book Club, which is odd given my role as Community Literacy Coordinator. After reading books like “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society”, and watching movies like “The Jane Austen Book Club”, the idea of a Book Club has become really exciting to me. I also find it difficult to make time to read, so having a standing commitment to engage in literature is the perfect excuse to pick up a book.
I think the thing that appeals to me most about a Book Club is the opportunity to engage in focused discussion about something new. In my small British Columbia town, I don’t come into contact with a variety of cultures. I also don’t have the time or resources to travel extensively. Books are the perfect medium to accomplish these things for me. I could just read alone, but what better way to form bonds and friendships than to travel the world with other people?
Because I have never attended a Book Club meeting, I had to do some research on the best way to conduct one. I came across an amazing website called “LitLovers” (http://www.litlovers.com/start-a-book-club
). Not only does this site have step-by-step instructions on how to run a Book Club, it also contains questions and discussion guides for hundreds of books. Without a doubt, I will use this site when I start my group.
Here is the LitLovers guide for starting a Book Club. By answering these questions, you should have more success starting your club:
- What kind of book club is it? Academic? Social? Something in-between?
- What kind of books will you read? Fiction? Non-Fiction? What genre? How difficult?
- How will you choose your members? How many members will you have?
- When and how often will you meet?
- Where will you meet?
- What about food? Who will cook? What will you eat?
- How will you keep in touch?
- Keep memories of your sessions to inform new members.
- Give to the community by collecting dues.
If you have any tips on how to run a Book Club, add a comment! Happy reading!
By Leah Wilkie
Children love music. Who doesn’t really? My two year old sings to herself all the time. When we’re in the car, she will sing six songs in a row, hardly taking a breath. Listening to her interpretation of the lyrics always makes me laugh. In the “ABC’s” for example, the letter “B” makes three appearances. It is a very cute error (but one we are working on remedying!).
Music is an amazing tool for language and literacy development. Can you imagine teaching a two year old the “ABC’s” without music? It would just be a string of meaningless sounds without context. For some reason, rhythm and melody bring enough context and meaning to the seemingly random sounds, that a young child can learn them relatively easily.
Children also gain phonemic awareness through music. The ability to distinguish different sounds happens through the use of rhyming and rhythm. One cannot learn to read without first being able to distinguish different sounds. In essence, through music, children gain an awareness about language that prepares them to interpret print, which is a much more abstract skill.
Even beyond childhood, the use of music in learning is invaluable. We’ve all had the experience of being able to sing all of the words to a song we haven’t heard in a long time. I often wonder, “Now where in my brain was “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” hiding for all that time?" I know there is a scientific reason for this aptitude, but I love the seemingly “magical” effects of music on my ability to retain information.
On top of all this, music is portable and inexpensive, the perfect tool for a parent. In moments of boredom or emotional distress, a song is the perfect distraction. You can also use music to initiate transitions in activities, so that there are fewer conflicts.
If you have a limited repertoire of children’s songs, check out http://www.songsforteaching.com/lb/literacymusic.htm
For more information about literacy and music, visit http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/literacynumeracy/inspire/research/placing_music_en.pdf
Lastly, don’t forget that CBAL runs some wonderful family programs that utilize music to promote literacy. Contact your local Literacy Coordinator
for more information!
By Leah Wilkie
Happy Family Day everyone! As it is BC’s first official Family Day, I thought it appropriate to use this blog post to recognize the family in some way. I got to thinking about an audiobook that I listened to this summer as I was preparing for the birth of my second child. It was called “Hold on to Your Kids” by Gordon Neufeld, and it revolutionized the way I thought about raising my kids.
If you’re not familiar with Gordon Neufeld, let me tell you a little bit of about him. Dr. Neufeld is a developmental psychologist in the Vancouver area. He is one of the foremost experts on child development, and his theories are rooted in clinical experience and scientific research. His primary focus these days is instructing educators and other professionals. Check out “The Neufeld Institute” website for more information: http://neufeldinstitute.com/
Dr. Neufeld’s approach to child rearing and childhood development are quite comprehensive, so I won’t summarize them here (but I do highly recommend exploring his ideas – there are lots of videos on YouTube). I do want to highlight the most prominent message I gleaned from “Hold on to Your Kids”. Simply put, our children’s abilities to make healthy choices for themselves depend on the strength of their relationships with us, their parents.
If children are not firmly attached to their parents and their families, they will seek their attachments elsewhere. When those primary attachments are made with peers, children are susceptible to high-risk behaviours, and the combative attitudes we have come to accept as “normal” in teenagers. Neufeld offers a new way (or, in fact, an old way) to look at bonding with our children in order to better prepare our kids for the world. No more will I say except that you should read the book: http://www.amazon.ca/Hold-Your-Kids-Parents-Matter/dp/0676974724
So, on this Family Day, I wish you “happy bonding” with your kids – it really does make a difference!
My husband recently put me on to an article entitled “Don’t Waste Your Twenties” on a blog called “The Art of Manliness”. The intended audience for the article is, of course, men, but there are some take-aways for everyone in this one.
The gist of the article is that though your thirties are recently being advertised as “the new twenties”, your twenties are essential pathway-building years for your brain. In essence, you shouldn’t use them as “throw-away” years if you want your thirties and beyond to be rewarding and successful. I won’t go into it anymore because the article is really interesting: http://artofmanliness.com/2013/02/05/dont-waste-your-20s-train-your-brain-for-lasting-success/
In terms of developing literacy and essential skills, your teens and twenties are crucial times. In the literacy world, we often discuss the importance of the first six years of life in developing good literacy skills, but we shouldn’t ignore later developmental periods. If the teens and twenties are used to create good habits around reading, writing, numeracy, creative thinking and interpersonal skills, a person can enter his or her thirties with a formidable set of skills. A diet of video games and “just hanging out” won’t cut it!
Taking the time to create intentional goals for your exploits in your twenties can help your brain develop great pathways for the future. Enrolling in post-secondary education, volunteering with humanitarian organizations, and developing a variety of skills are just some of the ways you can make your teens and twenties count. You can still take the risks and have a lot of fun, but being deliberate about your activities can set you up for success in the future.
By Leah Wilkie
With the dawn of computers and the Internet, the way we work and make money has changed significantly. There doesn’t seem to be a “standard” workplace anymore, or an expected way to make a living. The opportunities are endless, but discovering them requires a great deal of creativity.
Personally, I hadn’t thought of creativity as a foundational skill. When I think of the great writers, musicians, and artists of our world, I always assume that they come by their ideas naturally. They are always divinely inspired, aren’t they?
I also assume that creativity is confined to the Fine Arts. Of course, this is not true as any of us can attest to. We are all constantly called upon to find solutions to various challenges in our personal and professional lives. What is this but creativity?
Fortunately for us mortals, creativity is a skill we are all capable of wielding, but it has to be learned and cultivated.
Recently, I came across a book called “The Creative Habit” by Twyla Tharp
. As indicated by the title, Tharp strongly advocates the development of creativity through disciplined habits. Far from sitting around waiting for a heavenly muse, Tharp has deliberately built structures in her life to nurture creativity. Here are a few of the exercises she recommends for preparing ourselves to be creative:
- Always have access to the tool that feeds your creativity – an example would be a pencil for a writer, or a sketchbook for an artist. Having these tools readily available allows you to respond quickly to ideas.
- Build up your tolerance for purposeful solitude – Tharp encourages focused alone time to allow your mind to daydream and explore ideas.
- Face your fears – Take time to identify what holds you back from exploring the ideas that pop into your head. Identifying your fear will help you face it.
- Take a week to go without certain distractions in your life – Tharp lists some distractions that inhibit our creativity, and advocates a week’s hiatus from these things. She guarantees a shift in perspective, which can only encourage creative thought.
These are only a few of the strategies Tharp covers in her book. Even if you only took one or two ideas away, I think you would find the book useful for any of the creative processes in your life.
Creativity is a very important skill to develop in today’s economy, but it is also fun and rewarding. Leave a comment on the blog with any ideas you may have for inspiring creativity!
For more information on “The Creative Habit” but Twyla Tharp, visit Amazon at http://www.amazon.ca/The-Creative-Habit-Learn-Life/dp/0743235266