Coming Together

I had a feel good, but make you cry sort of moment with a mom recently. She began coming to one of our Rhymes That Bind programs in the beginning of the 2012 year. She quickly became a regular, and I have gotten to know her two little boys. Her older boy at first seemed like he might be shy, or perhaps had a speech delay, but the more they came the more I learned from observation that he is not shy, he is quite an observant little guy, an eager participant and very friendly. He does have a “quirk” though. It is one I am familiar with because of my own son.

I could tell that his mother has been increasingly bothered by his “quirk” and has begun asking him to stop. I can sense that she is concerned he is bothering me, or I might think he is being rude or disruptive. When they returned after our summer break his little “quirk” has become  much more noticeable. What this little boy does can be called echolalia. It can occur in speech delays of some forms, it can also occur in spectrum disorders such as Tourettes, as my son has.

After this last week, I waited until we were one on one and I approached the mom and gently offered that I really enjoy her son, I think he is brilliant, fun, and I am definitely not concerned that he “echos” me. I began to tell her that my son has done that in his own way since he was very young so I take no offense, and its ok with me if she does not try to correct him.

Well the flood gates opened and she let it all out how they have begun assessments for her son, and its all so new to her, and she doesn’t know where to begin or what to think. She said that it meant a lot to her that I let her know that I am not bothered by what her amazing little man does, and it makes him so special.

I am so blessed to have this job and get to feel like I was there for someone who really needed it at that moment. I KNOW without a doubt she will keep coming to our program and even if only in some small way it has helped her feel that she and her son have a place they can belong, without it being a “special” class for kids with “disabilities”.

Missed Opportunity

The past few months have been full of excitement and anticipation for me. I was due to meet the mayor of the City of Edmonton on September 7th, 2012. This was International Literacy Day.  In celebration of this big event, over 8 Literacy Organizations in the Edmonton area (under the umbrella of Literacy Works), and including the Center for Family Literacy, joined hands and organized a book give-away at the Clareview and Churchhill LRT stations, where hundreds of transit riders were to receive a free book. I was honored to represent the Centre for Family Literacy for this big event.

 Mr. Stephen Mandel, the mayor of the city of Edmonton was taking part in the book give-away. This was an opportunity of a lifetime for me. I was going to share the platform with the mayor. I woke up at 5:00 am and started preparing myself.  I put on my lucky colourful top and headed for the Churchhill station. This was one occasion, when I was determined not to be late.

The book give away was a success.  We gave away many books and bookmarks to the transit riders. While I was excited to connect with the people and share the books with them, I was still on the lookout for the mayor’s arrival. I was disappointed when by eight o’clock the mayor had presumably not turned up. “He must have forgotten all about us”, I confided in one of colleagues.

Unbeknownst to us, the mayor had come and all the time I was waiting for him he was standing right in front of me, handing out books to unsuspecting LRT riders. It was evident from their response to his attempts to give them a free book and a bookmark that they did not recognize him. Many of them ignored him or they just smiled politely and passed him without a hint of recognition. We missed the opportunity to formally introduce ourselves to the mayor because we did not recognize him.

This experience brings to mind the 40% of Albertans who struggle with reading and writing. I thought about the many opportunities they possibly miss because of their struggle with reading. The information may be available, yet it is inaccessible to them.   As a result, they end up with limited knowledge and awareness, thus missing out on opportunities right at their doorstep.

The Centre for Family Literacy and other Literacy organizations in Edmonton play an important role in helping learners with low literacy levels to improve their reading and writing by offering one-on-one and group tutoring. This tutoring equips the learners with the literacy skills and enables them to function effectively in society.

Would you like to make a difference in someone’s life? It is easier than you think. Call the Centre for Family Literacy at 780-421-7323 for more information.

Tangled Ants

Has it ever occurred to you that we appear to live in society like a bunch of tangled ants? Everybody is rushing to and fro, getting frustrated and angry in traffic. People cut other people off and honk their horns, and generally make things worse. Those of you who travel the Anthony Henday know what I’m talking about! This all reminds me of a bunch of tangled ants, every time I see it. I just want to jump up and shout, “read a book and relax”! Obviously, do not read while driving. However, do take the time to read a book, find something that makes you laugh, something that takes your mind off the traffic, the rushing, and the stress. Books are such a great escape!

Preparing for the school year

For the first time in many years, I helped two children get ready to go to school and I was surprised by the focus on making sure that they have all the supplies  and new clothes that they need. So much is needed to go to school and learn.  What an opportunity to share the love of learning! It is a chance to share some of your back-to-school stories and talk about the difference between needs and wants, what things cost and what is important to your family.  Have you talked about all the great experiences they will have?  How are you preparing your children for the choices they will make in the school year ahead and into their future?

Learner Story

My name is Jason and I am from China.

Thank you for giving me a chance to meet my tutor Bob. Since we began, we have worked to improve our English with him. He has taught us, my wife Anna and I, every week. He always spends lots of time with us, and has been teaching us listening, speaking, reading, writing, and pronunciation in English. He always teaches us to learn very carefully.

I really appreciate, that with Bob’s help, our English skills are improving. I want to tell you, my wife and I will be returning to China on September 5th. We do not want to leave such a good tutor, maybe one day if we can return to Edmonton again, we would be pleased if Bob would  teach us English again.

When we go back to China, we plan to keep in touch and study English on the computer using SKYPE.

Thanks so much to the Centre for Family Literacy!

Thank you very much Bob, we will remember you in our hearts. We would like to learn from you continuously in the future.


Jason and Anna.


Reading a Place

I have always found it interesting how often I am asked for directions. Maybe I look like someone who knows where they are going, or maybe I look especially non-threatening, but whatever the case I find myself pointing down the road, explaining the turns to take, and describing the buildings they will see on the way.

It goes without saying that children need to learn how to get from one place to another, and one way you can do that is by drawing a map with them and following it together. This can be a wonderful way to introduce them to their community or learn what is important to them in your neighbourhood.  All the while you will be practicing a wide range of skills, including:

  • recognizing environmental print (like street signs)
  • drawing or describing what we see (size, shapes, colours, symbols)
  • measuring or describing distances
  • imagining how other people see the world (we notice different things)
  • imagining a different visual perspective (maps often take a bird’s eye view)
  • following directions in order (start with a few steps, they will be able to handle more and more with practice as they get older)
  • reading and writing (directions or labels on a map)
  • listening (to directions, or you could even include sounds in your map)

I find it fascinating how many different ways you can explain how to get from one place to another, and how much someone’s directions can tell you about how they see the world.  Consider how much of the world an 8-year old can explore on their own and how that has changed since you were that age, or when your grandparents were that age. There is an interesting article that explores that here: The Great Indoors, or Childhood’s End?

If you cringed or laughed when I mentioned describing buildings to people who are lost, you might enjoy this: The Irrelevant Show: Stuart McLean Gives Directions