Learning does not begin and end with childhood. It should be a lifelong adventure that takes us from one chapter of our lives to another. Learning comes in many forms. We learn in formal settings like schools and programs, but we also learn at home, on the job and in our communities.
As someone who has been learning all her life, it is a pleasure to encourage others to do the same in my capacity as a community literacy coordinator and as a literacy program facilitator. To see a learner’s eyes light up with enthusiasm gives me the greatest thrill! What makes me even happier is when I see multiple generations working and learning together.
Late last month we celebrated Family Literacy Day in Grand Forks with a variety of activities hosted at the Grand Forks and District Public Library. The day ended with an intimate and entertaining show with Mr. Mojo, an acclaimed musician. More than 40 parents, caregivers and children gathered in the children’s book section of the library to enjoy the performance.
But it wasn’t the enthusiasm from the crowd who gathered around the musician that caught my attention, it was the people on the periphery. They hadn’t come specifically for the event, but just happened to be in the library. As the show progressed, people of all ages began slowly gravitating toward the music. They were involuntarily tapping their toes and straining their necks to see what all the fun was about, smiling at the children as they danced and sang. It was contagious! To see them enjoying the simple and fun tunes as much as the children made me realize how important all our programming is to our communities. The joy that moment brought to them was priceless.
Intergenerational learning and enjoyment is so important in the work we do. Living in isolation within our own age groups does not make a community. Children look to adults to see what they enjoy and what they do. If they see adults who are learning new things, trying and sometimes failing, reading and engaging - then the children will follow.
If we want to educate our kids, we need to educate our adults.
I recently discovered an interesting article called “Educated Parents, Educated Children: Toward a Multiple Life Cycles Education Policy” in Education Canada Magazine written by Thomas G. Sticht, an International Consultant in Adult Education. Sticht highlights the importance of approaching children’s education as a family affair.
In Grand Forks, we have hosted highly successful Homework Clubs at both our elementary schools for many years. Homework Clubs are held in the Aboriginal Education rooms, although all students are welcome.
What is unique about these one-hour long after-school tutoring sessions is the aboriginal lens that has been applied. Aboriginal culture values its elders and the intergenerational learning that is necessary for the survival of a culture and language.
The Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy delivers the program as a three-way partnership with School District 51 and the Boundary All Nations Aboriginal Council (BANAC). Not only do the kids get extra one-to-one tutoring help with education assistants, but they also get to share a snack and spend some time with a BANAC elder.
The elders help the children make a snack, sit and read with them, bring handicrafts and listen. Parents join in from time to time, making for a wonderful session. Sometimes we have three generations sitting in one room enjoying the moment together. It isn’t what is being learned that matters here, it’s how it’s being delivered.
Community Literacy Coordinator
Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy - Boundary