Raise-a-Reader: Literacy program in South Vancouver leads to career options for mom

September 15, 2017

By Kevin Griffin, Vancouver Sun |

The first time Joselyn Cortado brought her daughter to the literacy program at South Vancouver Neighbourhood House, there was no doubt about it: little Khloe loved the whole experience.

Despite being the first time the three-year-old was with a group of strangers, she didn’t hold back at all. She loved playing with new friends and listening to stories read from a book. She loved eating fruit during snack time and drawing art.

“She was never scared,” Joselyn said about Khloe.

The two-hour Family Literacy Program started at 9 a.m., three days a week. Children in the program came from a diverse range of countries, including India, China and the Philippines. Joselyn emigrated to Canada from northern Philippines in 2001.

Of all the activities in the program, Khloe really took to reading books and doing art. Her favourite story was one about a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly. As for art, she loved drawing her family, as well as flowers in the garden.

“Reading books and doing art — they’re really her hobbies now,” Joselyn said.

Over time, Joselyn noticed something interesting about the program.

“I observed that it really helped families and new immigrants to adjust to Canada — even though people are from different cultures and beliefs,” she said. “It was a great program where the little ones start to learn socialization. They are playing at the same time they’re learning. Interaction with other kids is important for them to build self-confidence.”

Khloe attended the program for two years. It so impressed Joselyn that she didn’t waste any time in enrolling her second child, Kimberly.

It didn’t take long before Kimberly was pestering her mother to take her everyday. To Kimberly, who was two years old when she first attended, the program was a school-like experience.

“She loved it,” Joselyn said. “She said: ‘I’m so excited about going to school.’”

Joselyn started helping out by doing things such as preparing a table for activities or cutting fruit for snacks. Sometimes, she helped children while they made their art.

“Some of my co-parents said: ‘We can see you’re doing good helping the kids and teacher. Why don’t you take a course and work in this field?’”

The encouragement got Joselyn thinking. It convinced her to enrol in a Responsible Adult in Childcare Setting course, which will give her a certificate so she can volunteer with children. Now she’s thinking of doing even more — she’s considering studying Early Childhood Education.

Joselyn, who works with seniors as a resident care aide, said it had never occurred to her that she might work with children.

“After going to this program at neighbourhood house, it’s the young ones I like to work with,” she said. “I’m really considering it now.”

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