Long Distance Grandparenting

Long distance grandparenting can be difficult, painful, sad. It can also be positive, happy, rewarding. Keeping the connection alive is essential to building a loving, lasting relationship with your grandchildren, no matter where they live.

Video-chatting applications such as Skype or FaceTime are invaluable tools and very easy to use. The visual aspect of Skyping, as opposed to phone calls, is better for both sides of the conversation. In the beginning, before baby talks, you can watch his movements and check his growth as he learns new skills like rolling over and sitting up. You can be a part of his daily life while he eats, coos, sleeps and cries! You can’t reach through the computer screen to hold him but Skyping is the next best thing to being there. During my daughter-in-law’s maternity leave she and I had a weekly date to Skype. I felt so included in my grandson’s life and was able to support my daughter-in-law in her new role as a mother.

As a baby he learns to recognize your voice, and your chatting helps to develop his language skills. Adjust your expectations to his age, mood, time of day, and schedule. Whether your visit is two minutes or fifteen, let him set the tone; take delight in however long or however much he can give. As your grandchild ages, as he becomes mobile and learns to talk, your Skype visits won’t be so one-sided. However it may be difficult to keep track of him as he runs around his house! You’ll do a lot of just listening and watching but soon you’ll hear his excitement as he yells “Grandma, Grandma, Grandma” when he knows you’re calling. My grandson is so used to Skyping with me that he cried “I can’t see Grandma” during an ordinary phone call.

After a real face-to-face visit, Skyping is a good way to remind him about the things you did together to reinforce your relationship. If he has been to your house, the computer visit can show him things in your home that he might recognize.

Don’t forget the goodbye kisses. Your computer screen will get all smudgy but it will be worth it!


Get Ready, Get Set, Go Hunting!

At this time every year families are gearing up for Easter – buying and decorating eggs, planning a big family meal, and creating a fun filled Easter Egg Hunt. However along with the fun can come some tricky challenges!

I have never had the privilege of hosting Easter dinner. But I have organized the Easter Egg Hunt. The first time I did, I was surprised at how time consuming it could be – especially if you have multiple families coming over. When there are two or more children it can be hard to create equality in the Easter Egg Hunt. Watching my nieces and nephews find and argue over eggs completely took me back to when I was a kid at Easter. My parents had to deal with the same thing – my younger sister never found as many goodies as my older sister and I.

A few years ago I found the solution – colour-code the Easter Eggs! Each child is given a colour specific to them – the only eggs they can collect are of that colour. It’s a great way to introduce learning colours (for the younger children) while keeping things fun and fair.  An unexpected bonus is that the Hunt changes from a competition into the fun event you planned!

If you are hosting Easter dinner, why not incorporate decorating the eggs into the party? While dinner is cooking, have the adults sit and help the children create some wonderfully colourful eggs. It’s a great way to spend some quality time together. It’s also a great way to incorporate some early literacy – by talking about the colours they are using and about how they are creating their designs. For those families that thrive on competition, the prize for the winning decorated egg can be getting out of washing the dishes after dinner!

Good Luck Hunting and have a Happy Easter!


National Volunteer Week

The Centre for Family Literacy is grateful for our incredibly generous and gifted volunteers who commit their time to help us build, develop and improve literacy with families and communities.

It’s National Volunteer Week April 6-12 – a week set aside not only to thank and honour the people who donate time, talent, and energy to their fellow citizens, but also to increase public awareness of the powerful social investment volunteers make in and to our communities and to the Canadian society as a whole (Volunteer Alberta).

In the past year, 260 volunteers gave a collective total of 14,972 hours to contribute to the work of the Centre.

We’d like to take a moment to thank each one:

Thank you to our 45 board and committee members, who together invested a total of 2,040 hours to serve on one of our six committees or our governing board.

Thank you to the 86 tutors who gave a collective 11,655 hours to work one-one-one with adult learners to help others achieve their goals in reading, writing and math.

Thank you to our 9 group class facilitators who invested 440 hours and together offered 11 classes including Literacy, GED, Financial Literacy and Book Clubs.

Thank you to the 8 family literacy volunteers who gave their time to our family literacy programs, research, or assisted us directly here at the Centre, giving a collective 216 hours.

Lastly, thank you to the 112 special events volunteers who assisted us with five special events last year, giving 620 hours to help us reach our fundraising goals to ensure we can all continue to do all that we do.

On behalf of the staff of the Centre for Family Literacy, I would like to thank you for truly making a difference in our community through your efforts. Our organization can only make the impact we do through the support and contribution of our wonderful volunteers.

We hope that through your involvement in our organization, you have developed new skills, made new connections and become more engaged in your community. We wish you all the best in the year ahead and look forward to continuing to partner with you in our vision of a healthy, literate society where all are able to contribute and succeed.

Monica Doherty, Volunteer Coordinator

Gender Imbalance in Children’s Books

Recently there have been a few articles written about the lack of female characters in children’s books. One article published by The Guardian, says “The messages conveyed through representation of males and females in books contribute to children’s ideas of what it means to be a boy, girl, man, or woman.” Thus, it is important to present positive images of females in children’s books.

A study, led by Janice McCabe, a professor of sociology at Florida State University, looked at almost 6,000 children’s books published between 1900 and 2000, and found that males were central characters in 57% of children’s books published each year, with just 31% having female central characters. Male animals are central characters in 23% of books per year, the study found, while female animals star in only 7.5%.

To make matters worse, even in modern classics many of the male and female characters are stereotypical and out-of-date.

While there may be more children’s books directed at male audiences, there are some great books for girls out there as well. The website http://www.amightygirl.com/ has some great book ideas to share!

Read the full article at http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/may/06/gender-imbalance-children-s-literature