Multicultural Literacy Kits
The Greater Nanaimo Early Years Partnership Cultural Awareness Committee has developed and curated a collection of culturally-specific literacy kits for children up to six years of age. These kits are designed to help parents and caregivers actively encourage early literacy skills through books, rhymes, games, music and activities all contained in a handy backpack. Many of the kits are in the native language of each culture - a first for Nanaimo! The kits can be borrowed from any branch of the Vancouver Island Regional Library for up to 3 weeks at a time.
Why do we need these kits?
Libraries and educators have used literacy kits to help children explore language and cognitive development through reading and playing together. Until now, there haven’t been resources available in languages other than English or French, and few that reflect the unique culture of individual children. For bilingual families who have made Nanaimo their new home, it can be difficult to come by books and other resources that allow their children to connect with their native language and culture.
In fact, it was a child who originally sparked the idea for this project! A young Metis girl was visiting the library with her grandmother and wondered why none of the stories available related to her culture and background. She just didn’t feel included. After speaking to a local librarian, she and her grandmother decided that Nanaimo needed a Metis literacy kit. The Greater Nanaimo Early Years Partnership took on the challenge to build kits not only for Metis children, but for many other cultures as well.
What cultures and languages are currently available?
VIRL had already developed 11 First Nations of the Northwest Coast kits as well as many related to First Nations themes. To complement and expand on the existing cultural kits, we can now offer:
Arabic Chinese (in Mandarin)
Coast Salish Japanese
Metis (in English and Cree Michef)
What is in the Literacy Kit?
Each backpack contains at least 8 books (sometimes more!) of age-appropriate stories, rhymes or language readers, as well as a CD and/or DVD, and usually a toy. For instance, the Chinese kit incorporates a card game; the Japanese kit provides a paper kite; and the Serbian kit has a small stuffed bear. All of these items are used to engage the child in stories, rhymes and play in order to build literacy skills that will help their language and reading development from an early age. For those having difficulty finding reading material in their native languages, many of the books are written in the language of the culture represented, or in a combination of English and another language.
How are they used?
Parents, caregivers and educators can borrow the kits from the library for up to 3 weeks at a time. Reading to a child every day, and using the toys, games or music to engage them as well, has been shown to increase literacy skills and comprehension, even in pre-school children. And of course, it increases the bond between children and their caregivers in a way that can be fun for the whole family!
Where can I get one?
The Literacy kits are available at the Harbourfront, Wellington and Nanaimo North branches of the Vancouver Island Regional Library. They can also be ordered online, through the VIRL online catalogue at http://virl.bc.ca/, for pickup at any of the Library’s 39 branches across the island. Each kit can be borrowed for up to 3 weeks at a time.