One-year-old Tyson Brown holds a wooden puzzle piece in his tiny hand, turning it around, looking at it, sizing it up.
It’s a letter J, and he’s trying to find it’s place on the puzzle board. He and his sister Kaitlyn, who is three, are working on the alphabet puzzle together, with the guidance of their daycare provider, Cindy Talarico.
He eventually finds the right spot, placing it and several others in their proper homes.
The trio was taking part in the Ready, Set, Learn literacy open house at Coquihalla School in Hope on Tuesday morning. The collaborative event involved several groups that cater to early childhood education and literacy and was held in the school’s gymnasium.
Ready, Set, Learn is geared toward pre-school aged children and their parents, to open the world of learning and introduce children to the school setting.
Little ones kept busy putting on puppet shows for their parents, zooming around with die cast cars, walking along numbered floor mats, creating skyscrapers and castles out of building blocks, and playing miniature basketball throughout the morning.
All of those activities, along with a healthy dose of reading, provide an invaluable chance for parents to interact with their children, said Patsy Campbell. She runs the Strong Start program at Coquihalla elementary, Kent elementary in Agassiz and at Boston Bar elementary.
Strong Start is built on the importance of parent participation.
“It’s about seeing your child, and guiding your child,” she said. “At Strong Start, I set the atmosphere, but you’re doing the activities with your child.”
The programs are located in schools, and have been in the Fraser Cascade for five years, following a successful one-year pilot program at 13 other B.C. schools.
That strategy has helped integrate many young children into the school in a gradual way, Campbell said.
“It’s a good introduction to the school, and they can meet the kindergarten teachers,” she said. It’s also a great way to meet other parents with similar-aged children.
Talarico brings her daycare children to Strong Start to provide extra activities throughout the day.
“It keeps the kids busy, busy, busy,” she said, “and it breaks up the day for them.”
While Strong Start is a provincial government initiative through the Ministry of Education, it has the full support of the local school district, Campbell said.
“Everyone in Fraser Cascade, from the board right down, has been awesome to us and to our families,” she said.
There is no fee for the program, which is open to ages five and under. The program runs during select school hours (8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in Hope) and includes a healthy snack for the children.
The Ready, Set, Learn open house included information for parents from Seabird Supported Child Development Program, Child Care Resources and Referral, the Fraser Valley Regional Library and the Literacy Outreach Program.
It’s a once a year event in Hope, and those who missed it can find more information about early childhood literacy by visiting the B.C. Ministry of Education website.