Whole family learning

The Yukon Literacy Coalition has teamed up with Kwanlin Dun to get families reading. “It’s the beginning of something new,” said Art Stephenson. For the last 10 years, Kwanlin Dun’s Dusk’a Family Learning Centre has hosted a preschool program, funded by Health Canada.

The Yukon Literacy Coalition has teamed up with Kwanlin Dun to get families reading.

“It’s the beginning of something new,” said Art Stephenson.

For the last 10 years, Kwanlin Dun’s Dusk’a Family Learning Centre has hosted a preschool program, funded by Health Canada.

But last fall, the First Nation began renovations to turn it into a more inclusive family centre. It added more space for families to read and learn together and has been developing a lending library which will be an educational and cultural resource for the whole community.

The new partnership with the Family Literacy Centre is icing on the cake.

While geared toward preschoolers, the new program focuses on literacy as a family endeavour.

“Learning is something we do when we are with other people,” said Family Literacy Centre director Christine Spinder. “Parents are their kids’ first and best teachers.”

The new programming coaches parents on how to support and develop their children’s literacy. It provides curriculum, tools and activities – from the best techniques when reading to your child, to lists of outdoor activities that help kids learn.

It will also work to instil confidence in parents’ own literacy, said Spinder.

By working hand-in-hand with Kwanlin Dun, the program has specific Yukon First Nation characteristics, Spinder added, noting the role nature plays within the curriculum and humans’ connection to it.

“There’s a lot of uniqueness to Kwanlin Dun,” said Stephenson. “It’s a community within a community; we have values and approaches to family and our needs that are characteristically different than the wider community.”

Reading may not currently be a big part of many Kwanlin Dun homes, plus the extended family concept can be much different when compared to many nonaboriginal homes, he said.

“Literacy is a way to capture information,” said Stephenson. “What (Kwanlin Dun’s) young people need to capture is (information) about their identity, ancestry, history and how they are glued into their extended family and culture.”

Both directors note that this type of family-focused programming is infectious. Its main priority may be preschool-aged children but after working with parents the other siblings, aunts, uncles and even grandparents tend to get involved.

“It embeds itself in the family, then spreads out,” said Stephenson.

“It’s a great beginning,” he said again. “It will progress and bring the community together.”

The learning centre listens to families in the community, said Stephenson. It tries to understand their issues and what they need and then tries to meet those needs within the centre.

Having community-made literacy programming for the community is in high demand, said Spinder.

About 70 people came out for bison stew and bannock on Thursday to find out about the new program, she said.

At the dinner, older children came forward.

They too want help with their literacy skills.

The Family Literacy Centre is still considered a pilot project but it does have long-term goals, said Spinder. Bringing programs like this to all communities across the Yukon is one of them, she said.

When the centre promoted a territory-wide workshop on this family-oriented program a few weeks ago, there was a waitlist within four days, said Spinder.

“There’s a huge interest out there and it seems to be that a lot of people want to create learning within their community and they want to do it themselves,” she said.  “This program is based on people creating it themselves.”

“It will evolve over time, of course,” said Stephenson, about both the program and the Dusk’a learning centre. “But First Nation communities uphold a real concept of gathering around things and this has the ability to gather people.”

All Kwanlin Dun families with preschool-aged children are encouraged to register in the program. They can do so at the Family Literacy Centre on the second floor of the Canada Games Centre, or at the Dusk’a Family Learning Centre, located beside the health building on McIntyre Drive.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at roxannes@yukon-news.com

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