This initiative shows that early childhood literacy can be developed anywhere, anytime, and not just in books at school.
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The Raconte-moi ta famille activity
In the early 1980s, researchers showed both the importance and value of introducing children to the world of writing long before they start school.1 Last year, in this spirit, the Rosemont round table on early childhood issues (comprised of some 20 members, including early childhood centres, social and community organizations, and institutions) developed an activity called Raconte-moi ta famille (tell me about your family).
The idea is simple: for an hour, parent-toddler pairs play with words and then experiment with writing a story about their family together, with the help of an activity book and guided by an experienced facilitator. To reach more families, the facilitator holds the activity in different Rosemont organizations. As a result, last year, 10 organizations in the borough got the opportunity to host the activity.
Adèle Liliane Ngo Mben Nkoth and Marie-Ève Brunet-Bélanger (Photo : François Couture)
Developing early childhood literacy – anywhere, anytime
“The child is encouraged to point out geometric shapes, notice various signs, and generally become familiar with symbols. So they learn that these scribbles have meaning.”
“In our activity book and guide, which is inspired by everyday life in Rosemont, participants use the illustrations to wander through the neighbourhood. The child is encouraged to point out geometric shapes, notice various signs, and generally become familiar with symbols. So they learn that these scribbles have meaning. After the activity, for instance, the child will be able to associate the Promenade Masson logo – an “M” in the shape of a heart – with Masson Street,” explains Adèle Liliane Ngo Mben Nkoth, coordinator of the roundtable’s action plan. “One of the key ideas of the initiative is to show that early childhood literacy can be developed anywhere, anytime, and not just in books at school.”
A multiplying agent for knowledge about early childhood
“The opportunity to have a 0–5 specialist lead the activity […] allows me to train my own facilitators, who don’t all necessarily have what I like to call the early childhood touch.”
Marie-Ève Brunet-Bélanger is director of the Angus-Bourbonnière leisure centre (Service des loisirs Angus-Bourbonnière—SLAB), which offers some 200 sports and cultural activities every year to borough citizens.
For Brunet-Bélanger, Raconte-moi ta famille, held at SLAB last year, is no ordinary activity. “The opportunity to have a 0–5 specialist lead the activity and for my own staff to take part allows me to train my own facilitators, who don’t all necessarily have what I like to call the early childhood touch, since they often come from the world of day camps. So the Raconte-moi ta famille facilitator becomes a multiplying agent who transmits that knowledge to parents, educators, and other community stakeholders.”
A strong spirit of partnership in Rosemont
The program met all its attendance and appreciation goals for the first year, and a second phase will kick off in the coming weeks. There is demand for the program both among community organizations and parents – in particular parents of four-year-olds, who seek out such activities to prepare their children for school in September.
“One couple wrote on an evaluation form that the evening after taking part in our activity, their daughter told them a story – for the first time!”
This enthusiasm comes as no surprise to Ngo Mben Nkoth. “I attended a session in the last months of the program and witnessed first hand how well the concept works. Using a joyful and fun activity that takes advantage of the parent-child bond and their day-to-day life in Rosemont to develop early childhood literacy is the great strength of this idea. Seeing these children play with words and symbols is really something! One couple wrote on an evaluation form that the evening after taking part in our activity, their daughter told them a story – for the first time! When I read comments like that, I know we’ve achieved our goals.”
For Brunet-Bélanger, there’s also another reason behind the success of Raconte-moi ta famille. “The other factor behind the project’s success is the incredible spirit of cooperation on the Rosemont early childhood literacy roundtable. We work really well together, and we support each other and cooperate on many initiatives, including this one. For instance, in another area, I lend the SLAB gym to a sports organization; in return, I expose a whole other clientele to our facilities and activities. In addition to more formal undertakings like action plans, we develop a host of other initiatives among ourselves to provide better services to the Rosemont community. Everyone benefits from this wonderful spirit of partnership in our field, first and foremost the people of Rosemont.”
_ June 2018
Over the coming months, Montreal Hooked on School will publish a series of articles about various fruitful partnerships between the education sector and community stakeholders promoting youth success.
We asked writer and photographer François Couture to go and meet the people involved in these partnerships and tell their stories.