The school year is ending, but two organizations are working together to ensure preschoolers in Point Douglas are ready to start school—very ready.
The Very READ- y project promotes school readiness through community-based early learning and literacy programs.
One of the partners is Manidoo Gi-Miini Gonaan ("The Great Spirit is Giving"), which runs four day-care centres. The other is Bookmates Inc., a non-profit started in 1984 which has grown from linking U of M students and inner-city children for library visits into an organization which develops and delivers its own literacy programs.
One component is the use of the Moe the Mouse Speech and Language Development program to help young children using culturally appropriate toys and stories. The program, originally created in B.C. for its Aboriginal Child Care Society, is offered in all Manidoo Centres, and the Very READ-y project provides training and support for groups wanting to use Moe the Mouse.
Statistics show that 40% of adult Manitobans struggle with everyday tasks due to difficulty with language. The Very READ-y project, which is funded mainly by The Winnipeg Foundation, starts early by exposing kids and their families to playful options for gaining crucial skills in speaking, reading, and understanding what they hear and read. It shows promise for helping newcomers with language as well.
Recognizing that parents and caregivers are a child’s most important first teachers, the project reaches out many ways: to family centres, child care centres, schools, community organizations and so on. Through outreach worker Ko’ona Cochrane, they are in contact with about 40 organizations in the Point Douglas area.
Cochrane helps others deliver Moe, setting up workshops at which staff can practise the songs, rhymes, and stories. She also links people together through a peer networking group, allowing them to share ideas, space, and resources needed to provide a consistent literacy program. She refers to the process as "connecting bubbles". A broad-based community advisory group meets regularly, providing direction to the project and strengthening community bonds.
The Very READ-y project is in its first year. The plan is to build on the success of Moe the Mouse, add other family literacy programs, and eventually expand to others parts of the city and province.
For more information, contact Ko’ona Cochrane at 204-415-1147 or visit www.bookmates.ca.
Sonya Braun is a community correspondent for the North End. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.