Family Literacy Day can be celebrated through playing

Nearly a month after bonding with relatives over the holidays, many families in Canada will be participating in another event, Family Literacy Day, by reading with their children.

Vivianna Noguerra, however, will be celebrating the national initiative earlier than most.

Developed by ABC Life Literacy Canada in 1999, the event encourages reading through “simply setting aside 15 minutes of family time to read, play a game, write a letter, or even follow a recipe together,” according to the Family Literacy Day event guide.

However, not all parents have the skills to read to their children, and have to find other ways to foster learning.

Noguera, who emigrated in 2000 from Bolivia to Calgary, is fluent in Spanish but finds literacy in any language to be a daunting task.

“I’m not reading too much, and I’m not writing. In my country, no school for me. I start working at too young,” says the mother of seven.

Kiara Noguera reading along with Sandy Ireland, while Viviana Noguera watches alongside with her son.
Photo by: Kyle Napier
Noguera sought assistance for her two-year-old daughter, Kiara, and is now working with Sandy Ireland, a mentor with the Learning Starts at Home program, to give Kiara the opportunity to read that Vivianna didn’t have going up.

Specifically, the two meet in Noguera’s house to teach Kiara how to learn through play.

Together, they do a multitude of activities to help Kiara develop her literacy skills. They make letters and animals out of homemade playing dough, read books and make noises from the books, and bake foods like pizza or cake.

“I appreciate that so much, when people come here and teach me how to teach my kids,” says Noguera.

So far, the program has had a drastic effect on the previously shy Kiara, who used to cry constantly because she couldn’t communicate well.

Now the young girl has learned to share and dance, and gets excited about being social and jumps at the opportunity to make animal noises with books.

For parents having difficulties with literacy but who still want to read to their kids, Ireland says you can get creative by inventing new stories.

“You can tell any story to go with the pictures,” she says. “It’s still interactive and fun for the kids.”

This year’s Family Literacy Day theme, Journey to Learning, will focus on the learning bond between a parent and child. The Calgary Public Library is participating in the event, which happens on Jan. 27, 2012, by hosting a Read, Sing, and Play! program at all Calgary library locations. This is geared towards children aged two to five who are with a parent or caregiver.

Diana Villeneuve, literacy and learning advocate for the Calgary Public Library, says we should start early with reading and playing with kids.

“Literacy skills start to develop right at birth,” she says.

While Family Literacy Day is only once a year, she also says that the event “encourages families to get together every day to practice literacy based activities.”

Villeneuve recommends that people who aren’t comfortable with having low-literacy should seek out a literacy program. She says, “I really admire people that do take that step and decide to improve their ability to read.”

knapier@cjournal.ca