Literacy Network encouraging 20 minutes of family learning in 2020

One of the stations at the Family Literacy Event on Jan. 25, 2020 was Moe the Mouse. The speech and language kit uses Indigenous toys for development in kids ages three to five. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

The Prince Albert Literacy Network is encouraging families to dedicate at least 20 minutes every day to playing and exploring.

This is how children learn, explained Family Literacy Coordinator Kara Thorpe.

“When we think about literacy,” she said, “most people think reading, writing.”

“There’s so many other areas. For example, emotional, so being able to know what your emotions are and being able to handle those. If we don’t have the ability to sit down and play a game for 20 minutes, how do we then expect that we’re going to sit (in) a classroom?”

“So many of these skills are not necessarily ABC, but are at the heart of the whole learning experience.”

On Saturday, the Literacy Network welcomed a total of 56 families to a free event in the Gateway Mall.

It consisted of several stations, which Thorpe said should take approximately 20 minutes to get through, but some families were spending well over an hour playing with their kids.

Students at Global Partners were doing calligraphy and origami. A station was also set up for Moe the Mouse, a speech and language resource using Indigenous toys.

“One of our stations is a playdough station and what’s really unique about that station is it’s just random different objects,” said Thorpe, adding that kids could create all sorts of Play-Doh sculptures using cookie cutters and rolling pins.

From a dance floor to reading opportunities, the Family Literacy Event seemed to be keeping every child entertained.

Thorpe said they also gave away ‘family fun kits,’ which include Play-Doh sets, scissors and crayons: “All of those kind of things that we’re kind of doing here today to encourage that play at home.”

If you missed the event on Saturday, you’re able to pick up a kit at the Gateway Mall between 1 and 4 p.m. on Thursday. The kits are geared towards children under six years old.

Thorpe emphasized the importance of playing with your children, even doing simple, everyday activities.

“For example, setting the table. If we set the table, we can count the number of forks that go out and that starts the pattern of learning,” she said.

“It might be counting the number of red cars that are driving past, getting out and playing outside with mom and dad, just running up and down the hill at the playground.”

This learning doesn’t just start at the school age, she said, but right from infancy.

“(If) the kids are playing with bubbles—it’s called eye-tracking—so can they follow the bubble. If they can follow the bubble longterm, that leads to being able to read from left to right because they’re able to track,” said Thorpe.

“All of these things build towards all of those skills that we want to see as young children and into adulthood.”

Thorpe said throughout the week, the Literacy Network is supporting other local initiatives encouraging learning and playing, such as providing supplies for school activities.

Other community partners that contributed to the Family Literacy Event include Prince Albert Early Intervention Program, the John M. Cuelenaere Public Library, Catholic Family Services, Jump Start, Prince Albert Aboriginal Head Start and the Saskatchewan Literacy Network.