Reading and parenting
Literacy - a family affair

Michele LeTourneau
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Jan 28/00) - The NWT Literacy Council has been offering programs across the territory to spread the word that reading and writing builds strong self esteem and vivid imaginations.

One such program is the Literacy and Parenting Skill program (LAPS), which was taught during a two-day workshop in Yellowknife this week.

"The training was for practitioners, family support centres, child-care workers, adult educators. A variety of different people showed up from a variety of different places," says Lisa Campbell, the community literacy development facilitator with the council.

A total of twenty-two participants from Yellowknife, Fort Simpson, Hay River, Rae Lakes and Cambridge Bay attended the workshop.

"We had two trainers come in from Calgary. They developed the program and they go across the country training people to run these programs in their communities."

Campbell explains that LAPS is different from other literacy programs because it incorporates literacy with parenting skills.

"Through parenting issues and topics like self-esteem, how to deal with the school system, traditional culture -- through all those kinds of topics -- they learn about parenting issues but they also work on their literacy skills at the same time."

The interactive training sessions enabled the participants to learn what the program is all about, including topics such as the ages and stages of children, nutrition, self-esteem and school problems.

"(School problems) is a really good one for a lot of people because in a lot of communities people are very wary of the school system. So they do a lot of work around that kind of issue," says Campbell.

The trainers also talked about how to set up the LAPS program in the communities and how to obtain funds for the program. Campbell emphasizes the inherent goal of the program is to carry it out in a way that is comfortable and non-threatening.

She also notes the NWT -- the latest figures also include Nunavut -- has the highest illiteracy rate in Canada.

"And the thing with these programs, is that they don't need to be done in English," she adds. "We definitely promote 'Do it in your own language!' Literacy does not mean English."

The participants will now go back into their communities and incorporate what they've learned into prenatal and postnatal programs, adult education centres and family violence programs.

"People are very keen right now on family literacy," says Campbell.

"There's a real sense out there that something needs to be done. Done not just by isolating children and isolating parents -- it needs to be done with the family."