Raise-a-Reader: Literacy night goes beyond books

September 23, 2016

By Vancouver Sun |

Through songs and games, Nang Gunhtang discovered a world of literacy beyond books.

Gunhtang used to equate literacy with reading and writing. But thanks to Family Literacy Fun Nights at Langley Community Services Society, the mother of two kids — Peter, 5 and three-year-old Faith — discovered literacy comes in different forms, and opportunities for learning can lurk in everyday activities.

“What I (thought) before was literacy meant reading. Books. I didn’t know playing games and doing interactive things is literacy too,” said Gunhtang, who left Myanmar for Canada seven years ago.

The society offers a gamut of programs devoted to the traditional concepts of literacy, including Reading Buddies, a mentoring program, and IPALS, aimed for immigrant families with young kids. Family Literacy Fun Night is different.

“We still promote books and stories but show parents you can develop literacy skills not just through books,” said coordinator Ewa Boss. “There are other things you can do.”

The program, which draws up to 100 people every month, is also open to the community at large.

Susan Conde, 41, recalls the time she invited her father-in-law to the family fun night, along with her husband and two kids. It was his 71st birthday, and he was initially reluctant. It turned out to be quite a memorable celebration.

 “My son sang Happy Birthday in Spanish. Some people sang it in Japanese. Others in Chinese, and then in other languages,” said Conde, who moved to Canada from Peru about four years ago after meeting her Canadian husband in the U.K.

“He said it was one of his best birthdays.”

Boss and her colleagues started Family Literacy Fun Nights, which receives funding from The Vancouver Sun’s Raise-a-Reader program, in September 2014.

The goal was to bring families together and provide a space where they can spend quality time together and learn how to promote literacy in fun, interactive ways.

But another impetus for the program was to try to mend a glaring gender divide, said Boss.

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