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Raising a reader: engaging kids early for literacy success

Chris Marchand

Chris Marchand served as editor of the Dryden Observer from August 2009 to April 2018.
Toddlers AJ Millard and Paisley Patrosh play during a recent literacy forum aimed at teaching parents how to instil a love for reading in their kids.
Photo by Jon Thompson

Cultivating a culture of literacy at home can help readers bloom in the classroom and St. Joseph’s School is planting that seed in the families of students whose formal learning has yet to take root.

St. Joseph’s held a literacy forum for parents of registering Kindergarten students on Feb. 20, urging them not only to make reading fun, but to transmit the value of family to reading time.

The “Make It FUN-tastic” workshop encouraged parents to read with their children daily and to hold open-ended discussions throughout, backed by research that shows familiarity with books and early interactive engagement leads to literacy success and enjoyment.

“One of the things that’s really important, as part of learning to read, is the oral language piece,” explained Natasha Getson, the curriculum coordinator for the Northwest Catholic District School Board. “The communication at home, even with teaching them how to read a book, going through the pictures with them, talking about what’s happening to build upon that oral language piece is critical. Some kids come to school and they’re non-verbal. They watch a lot of TV or play a lot of video games. We’re bringing in those rooted beginnings to early stages of literacy.”

Shelly Durance is the board’s special education coordinator. She believes the session turned the page to a proactive literacy approach that will not only tighten relationships within families but will also decrease the number of children requiring special support.

“If we do this early intervention process, we can prevent some of those children from being in the special education caseload. You close those gaps early, meet the needs and quality instruction in the classroom takes care of the learning needs without the intervention.”

Organizers were amazed at the unusually high number of fathers who attended on Wednesday evening. Part of that success was attributed to breaking down barriers to attendance, including providing dinner and childcare while parents were engaged. They’re also observing evolving gender roles in the home, however, as fathers are approaching their children’s learning as part of their responsibility.

“Reading is permission to cuddle,” Getson said. “It’s important particularly for boys to see how dads think it’s important. Typically, boys are the ones who aren’t that interested in literacy. Statistics show the girls are excelling more in literacy and boys are excelling at math. When dad says, ‘isn’t reading fun,’ it grabs the attention of boys.”

The board has funded full-day Kindergarten at St. Joseph’s for the past two years but in September, the school will become an official Early Learning Site, supported by new early childhood educators and resourced provincially.


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