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Families Key to Improving Literacy Levels

Parents are their children’s first teachers and role models and have a profound influence on their early literacy development. Research studies conducted over the past few decades have provided strong evidence to support the premise that focusing on the family as a learning unit is a key strategy to improve literacy standards.

This research has determined that direct parent-child interaction around literacy activities such as reading, talking, cooking, writing notes, or playing games has a positive affect on children’s academic performance. The research has also shown that the earlier parents become involved in literacy activities with their children, the more positive the results and the longer lasting the effects.

Family literacy programs focus on the family as a whole, providing parents with the tools to support their children’s literacy and at the same time improving their own literacy skills. The Learn Together – Grow Together program offered by the Centre in partnership with Edmonton Catholic Schools is an excellent example of a program that supports both parents’ and children’s literacy development.

Learn Together – Grow Together is for parents and their children ages 3-6 and is offered for two and a half hours once a week for thirty weeks. The time commitment can be a barrier for some families so the program is broken into 3 ten-week sessions in order to provide flexibility and encourage participation.

"This program was very useful for me as a new comer to Canada. It helped me and my daughter to meet new people, improve our English language, and develop our skills."

On a typical day, families arrive and spend some time socializing with one another. Then it is off to the gym where the families participate in games to get the mind and body ready for learning. Parents then split off and work with staff on activities that improve their own literacy and learn ways to support their children. At the same, time staff and volunteers work with the children, engaging them in fun activities that support their learning. The session ends with parents and children doing an activity together, one that is easily replicated at home.

Family literacy programs support learning for all members of the family, develop stronger relationships between parents and their children, and connect families to their community. Including parents as partners in their children’s education does make a difference.

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New Survey of Adult Skills Released

The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) released results of the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) in October. The assessment surveyed 166,000 people in 24 countries and sub-national regions. It measured skills in literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in technology-rich environments among adults between the ages of 16 and 65. The survey focused on how adults develop these skills, and how they use them at work, at home and in the community.

PIAAC assessed the level and distribution of adult skills in a consistent way across all participating countries. The survey also collected information on how individuals maintain or lose these skills over a lifetime; and how individual’s skills relate to employment, income, health, and social and political engagement.

In Canada, more then 27,000 people were surveyed to allow findings at both the national and provincial/territorial levels, as well as off-reserve Aboriginal peoples, immigrants, and official language minorities. PIAAC was administered by Statistics Canada and sponsored by provincial and territorial ministries and departments responsible for education, Council of Ministers of Education, and Employment and Social Development Canada.

PIAAC follows in the tradition of previous surveys IALS (1994) and IALSS (2003) in measuring reading and numeracy, but it adds a new element – problem solving in technology-rich environments. This is an effort to understand how adults use “digital technology, communication tools, and networks to acquire and evaluate information, communicate with others, and perform practical tasks.”

Some interesting points:

  • U.K., Germany, and U.S. scores were below the OECD average in literacy.
  • Canada ranked at the OECD average for literacy, below the average in numeracy, and comfortably ahead in problem solving in technology-rich environments.
  • The top 11 countries in order were: Japan, Finland, Netherlands, Australia, Sweden, Norway, Estonia, Flanders, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, and Canada.
  • Canadian men have higher numeracy skills than Canadian women.
  • Regional differences show Alberta and Ontario above the OECD average in literacy, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador below the average with Nunavut scoring the lowest in Canada.
  • Canada has a higher proportion of its population at the highest and lowest levels in literacy.
The complete report on Skills in Canada can be found at http://cmec.ca/Publications/Lists/Publications/Attachments/315/
Canadian-PIAAC-Report.EN.pdf


OECD PIAAC reports can be found at http://www.oecd.org/site/piaac/

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Breakfast for Literacy

If it is January, it must be time for the annual Leading with Literacy Breakfast in recognition of National Family Literacy Day. Our keynote speaker this year is Dr. David Atkinson, President of Grant MacEwan University. Dr. Atkinson is a passionate educator and an active participant in both the academic and non-academic community.

The breakfast is an opportunity to celebrate the work of the Centre and to acknowledge the nominees and winners of the annual Lois Hole Memorial Literacy Awards.

The breakfast will be held at the Westin Hotel, Edmonton on Thursday, January 23, 2014 with registration at 7:00 a.m. and breakfast and the program beginning at 7:15 a.m.

Tickets are available on our website at www.famlit.ca

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Bringing a Book to Life

Stella Queen of the Snow by Marie Louise Gay tells the story of Stella and her little brother Sam. It is Sam’s first snowstorm and there are many new experiences waiting for him. This book provides a base for activities that enhance a child’s literacy development and an opportunity to spend time together as a family!

As you share the story together, expand on what your child sees in the illustrations. Talk about the animals, plants, colours, and shapes. Discuss whether or not your child has participated in any of the same winter activities as Stella and Sam. If the weather permits, go outside and try one or more of the activities together.

Try making a craft together. One idea is to choose an activity or winter scene to illustrate. Make a snowman by pulling apart some cotton balls and gluing them onto a piece of construction paper. Drawing or gluing additional accessories for the snowman and a background are also fun.

Extending the story with a variety of activities will engage your child’s imagination and build their literacy and language skills. It is the perfect way to celebrate winter!

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Family Literacy Day Celebrations

We had so much fun at the 2013 Family Literacy Day Carnival that we are doing it again! Mark Sunday, January 26, 2014 on your calendar and drop in at the Robbins Health Centre, MacEwan University City Centre Campus from 2 – 4 p.m. for fun activities for the whole family.

The Golden Key International Honour Society students at MacEwan University are organizing the event with help from the Centre for Family Literacy. The students come up with some amazing activities for moms, dads and kids to do together. Last year the insect exhibit proved to be very popular, especially the tarantula!

Each family will receive a complimentary book to build their home library. Watch for more details on the Centre’s website at famlit.ca

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Adult Tutors Needed

Today, thousands of adults in Alberta struggle with literacy. 

Every week, new learners come to the Centre seeking to grow their basic literacy and essential skills.  While some benefit from our group classes, most are seeking a tutor who can work one-on-one with them to improve their reading, writing or math skills. 

You can make a difference.

We provide our volunteer tutors with:
  • free tutor training
  • access to resources
  • ongoing support
For more information, please contact our Volunteer Coordinator at volunteer_coordinator@famlit.ca or 780.421.7323 ext. 232.

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