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Child literacy forum planned – Making sure every child is ready for kindergarten

SIMCOE, ON, FEB 5, 2008 – People with a vested or professional interest in child literacy are being asked to help plan a major forum slated for Haldimand and Norfolk counties next month.

The forum, “Sowing the Seeds, Harvesting Readers,” will take place March 29 at the Greens of Renton and is the latest in several innovative projects launched recently through the joint efforts of Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit Preschool Speech and Language Program, and the Ontario Early Years Centre, a division of Haldimand-Norfolk REACH.

“Many preschool children in the area are in need of literacy help and we need to ensure that our children get the head-start they need to succeed in school,” noted OEYC Early Literacy Specialist Marg Calder.

“This forum is a springboard that will take us to the next stage in providing services necessary for children’s literacy in our two counties,” said Health Unit Speech-Language Pathologist Lori Holstein. “We’re looking for people, such as early learning providers and teachers, who would be willing to be a part of our local panel, explore gaps in our literacy big picture and help develop a local strategic plan to fill gaps.”

The forum will also provide an opportunity to hear the latest research and facilitate networking among literacy partners in Haldimand and Norfolk.

The OEYC and the Health Unit’s Preschool Speech and Language Program banded together recently after realizing their common goal.

“We are both pursuing increased literacy rates for children,” Calder said. “We both want to ensure that every preschooler reaches kindergarten with literacy readiness.”

The Health Unit program provides services to families of preschoolers with speech and language difficulties up to age five. It employs speech-language pathologists and supportive personnel at sites in Dunnville, Caledonia, Simcoe, Delhi and Langton.

The OEYC, has main sites in Simcoe, Caledonia and Dunnville, and is geared to children up to age six. The OEYC centres are places where parents and caregivers can get answers to questions, take part with their children in a range of drop-in and play-and-learn programs and activities, get information about program services available for young children, and talk to early years professionals and other parents and caregivers in the community.

With additional funding from the Ministry of Children and Youth Services announced in the fall, the Speech and Language program launched a campaign to offer increased language and literacy training for parents and early learning providers.

“Book-sharing is one tool we use to help children with vocabulary development,” Holstein explained. “We demonstrate for parents how to share books with their language-delayed child in a fun and stimulating way. Research shows that children who share books with adults at an early age have a larger vocabulary and better language skills when they start school.”

For the past year, the OEYC and the Health Unit have collaborated by holding joint meetings and sharing resources. Health Unit Speech and Language Parent/Program Assistant Becky Pow has assisted Calder in many projects, including “literacy suitcases.” These suitcases are available to early learning providers, and contain books, costumes, props and many ideas centered on a theme. Currently, there are 37 titles in Norfolk and 14 in Haldimand.

“We have also worked together to prepare materials for joint presentations to the Mennonite Moms and Tots group in Frogmore,” Pow noted. “The team will continue to deliver workshops jointly and provide handouts on language and literacy to interested people and agencies.”

The Health Unit and OEYC have been working to expand their partnership to include other people and organizations committed to child literacy. Recent additions to the team include:

  • Karen Wilson, Child Care Analyst/Coordinator, from Norfolk County’s Health and Social Services Department, Children’s Services Team.
  • Wendy Gedye, Outreach with Norfolk County Public Libraries.
  • Roberta Chapman, Children’s Services Coordinator, Haldimand County Public Library.
  • Belinda Benko, Speech-Language Pathologist, Grand Erie District School Board (GEDSB).
  • Michelle Black and Nancy Norton, Teacher Consultants, GEDSB.

People interested in helping to plan the “Sowing the Seeds, Harvesting Readers” forum may contact Calder at the OEYC, 1-866-463-2759 Ext. 230 or Holstein at the Health Unit, 519-426-6170 Ext. 3244 or 905-318-6623 Ext. 3244.

Media contacts: Lori Holstein, Speech-Language Pathologist, Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit, 519-426-6170 Ext 3244 or 905-318-6623 Ext. 3244

OR Marg Calder, Early Literacy Specialist, Ontario Early Years Centre, 1-866-463-2759 Ext. 230.