Despite the beautiful weather last weekend, a handful of children and their parents chose instead to take off for the stars.
“Today’s theme is outer space!” said Karen Hoose at last week’s Start Your Month Off Right literacy event, as she pulled an empty tube of toothpaste out of the “feely-bag.” “Astronauts have to eat their meals out of tubes while they’re in space.”
Participants are encouraged to reach into the bag at the beginning of the session and feel an item in the bag pertaining to that week’s theme. Hoose, who has been running the program for eight years, said the best compliment she has ever received was from a mother who told her about how her kids were using their pillow cases as feely-bags.
“It’s so important to encourage the beginning of lifelong learning,” said Hoose. “It’s work, but it’s fun work.”
Start Your Month Off Right is funded by the local literacy council out of the NWT Centennial Library on the first Saturday of every month. It is the only one of its kind to run on the weekend, something Hoose said was important for parents who work during the week.
“I’m not a babysitter,” she said. “This is about everyone joining in and learning new ways to interact with their child.”
Proof-positive of the program’s success, a former attendee has turned helper for Hoose. Nine-year-old Erik Scheper said that although he liked the activities better than the reading part of the day, he always wanted to lend a hand.
“From as far back as I can remember I always wanted to get here early to help set up,” he told The Hub. “And I just never stopped.”
The program typically sees anywhere from a handful to more than a dozen children ranging from toddlers to about six-years-old each week, along with their parents and guardians. Hoose said her favourite part is making connections between the books and real-world things. During a conversation about stars on Saturday, Hoose cut open an apple to show the children how stars can be found in unlikely places.
“Literacy means so much more than it used to,” she said. “It’s not just books and reading, it’s making connections in the real world and so much more.”