The Westfall family of Langford is living proof that children will latch onto literacy and learning wherever they find it.
Jocelyn Westfall, 35, and her husband Darcy, 37, have always enjoyed reading and hoped their three children, ages five, three and 17 months, would feel the same.
It turns out they have no cause for concern.
Between trips to the library, special community events like Books for Breakfast reading times, bedtime stories, singing songs together, even watching TV, the three Westfall kids are proving to be little literary sponges.
“They soak it up,” said Jocelyn, a stay-at-home mom. “I am always surprised to see how many new words my daughter has memorized from some of her books.
“When they go to the library and they get to pick out books, it’s all new books for them and it’s so exciting.”
The Westfalls’ excited willingness to learn, and do it everywhere, is exactly the message libraries and community educators want to send home on Sunday — Family Literacy Day.
It’s a national day of events and fun to showcase learning and literacy available everywhere: in the home, with the family, at work and in the community.
The Greater Victoria Public Library is making it a whole week of events for Family Literacy Week.
There will be events like Guys Night Out Bedtime Storytime next Wednesday from 6:30 to 7 p.m., giving dads, stepdads, granddads, uncles or big brothers a chance to bring their little ones for a special story. It’s recommended for children, five and under. Pyjamas and stuffies are popular, but optional.
There is even an activity card, or learning passport, that can be printed from the library’s website. It contains 12 squares, each with a separate learning activity, to be completed and checked off by a family between Sunday and March 10. Completed cards can be returned to any Greater Victoria Public Library branch to be eligible for a $60 gift certificate at a bookstore of your choice.
Shantael Sleight, literacy outreach co-ordinator for the West Shore Literacy Project, said Family Literacy Day is all part of an effort to demonstrate the chances for literacy and learning all around us.
Sleight said we all engage our minds and exercise our literacy skills when we do things such as learn the words to a song, measure various amounts for a recipe, or even read roadside signs.
And when we do these things with our kids, these everyday activities become invaluable learning moments for all.
“You can discover what piques their interest and go along with that,” said Sleight. “And as an adult, by supporting your child, you learn about yourself, you learn how to relate to your children.”
Furthermore, if you make learning moments a part of everyday routines, everybody learns about their greater environment, their own community.
Which is one reason the communities of Colwood, Langford, Metchosin and View Royal have devised a way to get the whole community working together to deliver literacy fun.
With the Langford trolley bus on a scheduled run, those who want to dabble and sample various learning opportunities can ride the bus, sing songs and play word games with other passengers.
At various stops, they can jump off and join in various activities.
It might be word bingo at a community centre, games and activities in a shopping mall, a puppet show at the local library or mixing up a recipe at a bakery.
Sleight said the whole idea is to let people engage in learning but to do it as play.
“As families, we can learn together, but we can [also] have fun doing it.”
For example, parents and children can learn something new about words by playing I Spy games. They can learn something of geometric shapes by folding laundry together.
“It only takes 15 minutes or less to learn something new,” said Sleight. “But literacy and learning affect the way we live, the way we contribute to society, our life and our happiness levels.”
Claire Rettie, executive director of the READ Society, devoted to teaching literacy and number skills, said people don’t recognize the learning moments that exist all around them.
So Rettie’s group will be at Westshore Town Centre in Langford on Sunday afternoon offering games to play and chances to talk to parents.
“Part of it will be encouraging people to do what they are already doing,” she said. “People do literacy in their day-to-day lives without even knowing it.
“If your kids are reluctant readers, or having some problems, it really doesn’t matter what they read — comics, flyers, posters on telephone poles, graphic novels,” said Rettie “Somewhere, there will be a book for them.”
For more information about Family Literacy Day and GVPL’s Family Literacy Week, go to gvpl.ca and sookewestshoreliteracy.ca.
© Copyright 2013