Readers get early start
Pond Inlet program a success despite funding battles

NNSL (Oct 25/99) - The name of the game is literacy on Tuesday afternoons in Pond Inlet and the players are parents and children under the age of five.

While the stakes are high for the contestants, the dealer -- or more accurately, the co-ordinator of the preliteracy reading program -- said that since it kicked off 11 years ago, everyone involved has come up a winner.

"We get good feedback from the parents that the children are excited to come and we get good feedback from the kindergarten teachers who say it gives (their students) more confidence when they come to school," said Ootoowak.

"So it must be working in some ways."

Held every Tuesday afternoon at the Rebecca P. Idlout Library from 2 to 4 p.m., the event offers one hour of organized programming followed by a second, less structured hour that gives parents and kids the chance to work together on projects with the assistance of the staff.

While both portions are beneficial, the second half also gives parents a bit of a time to mingle with their peers as their kids play and learn together in a safe environment where it's fun.

That's good news for the entire hamlet.

"It gives the chance to kids and parents to feel comfortable in the library and to have fun there. They feel motivated to try before they even start school," said Ootoowak.

Small homework assignments add to the list of positive side-effects by giving families projects to work on at home. Turning in the finished product makes the participants proud of themselves and their accomplishments.

But, as is the case with many successful literacy projects around the world, finding a constant source of funding is more than half the battle.

Forced to seek out a new source every year, Ootoowak said she received a total of $7,000 from the Government of Nunavut to run her program for the 1999-2000 fiscal year. Most of that was eaten up by salaries for herself and her two instructors and the remaining portion was used to buy craft supplies and learning materials.

Ootoowak will have to start the process all over again later this year to secure funding for the coming fiscal year.

"Each year we have to find different funders. We're not asking for lots and we go with what we can."