Family Literacy Day inspires family fun in the NWT

Family Literacy Day inspires family fun in the NWT
Anthony Beck sits down to read a book with his daughter, Brenna Beck, during Princess Alexandra School’s Family Literacy Day event in Hay River last week.Photo: SSDEC.

The NWT Literacy Council is once again asking families in the territory to adopt a focus on literacy, but this year the request branched out from hitting the books to what everyone enjoys: having fun.

“Children learn through play,” Kathryn Barry Paddock, coordinator with the NWT Literacy Council, told The Journal. “Even taking 15 minutes a day with your child can improve their (literacy) skills and you can do it in a fun way.”

NWT Family Literacy Day was marked Monday in conjunction with national Family Literacy Day, a Canada-wide campaign whose focus this year was 15 Minutes of Fun. The campaign states that there are hundreds of short, entertaining activities that parents can do to encourage literacy growth in their children.

“The research is really clear that there is a real link between family involvement at home and what we are seeing in schools,” explained Dorie Hanson, literacy coordinator for the South Slave Divisional Education Council (SSDEC).

Parents often find the idea of teaching literacy at home daunting, but simple, fun activities with their children can have a lasting impact on their development, Barry Paddock said.

While books and reading are still important to a child’s education, learning can happen in a many ways, she said. For example, singing with your child or telling jokes can help children learn language skills.

Vanessa Song digs in to the pancakes she made with her parents at the Hay River public library for Family Literacy Day.

Photo: Terri Murrell

Vanessa Song digs in to the pancakes she made with her parents at the Hay River public library for Family Literacy Day.

“Maybe you are going to put together a quick recipe or match socks while you are doing the laundry and all the while you are talking to your child. Maybe you are going to play a fun card game like Go Fish, or Snap. It doesn’t take very much effort,” Barry Paddock said.

“Going out on the land involves literacy skills, too. So if you are going to go out for a walk, talk about what you are going to see and explain things as you go along,” she added.

Territory embraces literacy fun

To mark Family Literacy Day in the NWT, various societies and organizations across the North have been holding family events in libraries and halls from Tuktoyaktuk to Fort Smith.

In Yellowknife, the NWT Literacy Council partnered with the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre (NACC) to host games and activities for youth in the NACC lobby Saturday as part of the annual Children’s Festival of SiLLiness.

Hay River hosted its literacy event early with a family pancake bake-off at the community library on Jan. 18. Eight families partook in the breakfast baking bash, which included a reading of the children’s book Pancakes Pancakes.

“Whether it’s literacy in the kitchen or literacy in the book, it’s bringing families together to do something they might not normally do,” said Terri Murrell, program librarian at the Hay River Public Library.

Students at JBT have lunch with their families during a Family Literacy Day activity monday.

Photo: Steven Lee

Students at JBT school in Fort Smith have lunch with their families during a Family Literacy Day activity monday.

Most schools in the territory held their own literacy day activities, as well.

Schools in the SSDEC all held events for Family Literacy Day, ranging from elder book readings to literacy quizzes and math activities.

Hanson said literacy skills are not a new focus for the SSDEC, but there has been a heightened awareness of its importance over the last several years.

“When we look at improving students’ reading and writing skills, we are also improving skills all the way across the board in all subject content areas,” she said.

NWT literacy promotion growing

According to Barry Paddock, interest in promoting literacy in communities has been steadily picking up momentum in the NWT.

“I think people seem to be kind of energized to do family literacy events,” she said.

The NWT Literacy Council has been holding workshops to train community members on literacy programming for the past 10 years, but the latest workshop in December saw a higher than average turnout with 26 participants from across the territory.

“We’ve pretty much trained somebody from every community at some point,” Barry Paddock said.

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