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Nanaimo early learners get provincial support
Early learning programs and awareness in Nanaimo will continue to get support this year.
The province is giving Success By 6, a partnership formed in 2003 between the government, the United Way and credit unions, $3.4 million this year. That's up from the $2.5 million provided last year, but down from the $5 million it received two years ago.
Shelley Anderson, central Island Success by 6 coordinator, said she was "pleasantly surprised" by the announcement because last year at this time, the province was considering cutting funding drastically or altogether.
She thinks the renewed funding is due to parents and community members speaking out in favour of the program when they thought it would disappear.
"Really, it was just a resounding, 'No, this is not acceptable' from families," said Anderson.
The central Island – Nanaimo, Ladysmith, Oceanside, Port Alberni, Tofino and Ucluelet – will share almost $200,000 and an additional $72,000 for aboriginal engagement activities.
The funds support early education and awareness programs like Parent-Child Mother Goose, healthy start to learning fairs and the biannual family literacy magazine published through the News Bulletin (look for the spring edition in the Saturday, April 2 News Bulletin).
It also pays for the coordinator, whose job is to bring community stakeholders together to work collaboratively on early learning initiatives and share resources.
For example, numerous businesses and community groups donate the space for the Parent-Child Mother Goose programs. But without provincial seed money to get people to the table, the Success by 6 initiative would flounder, said Anderson.
"Without the small amount of funding that comes from the government, there would be no programs and services," she said.
Supports for young children and families are critical because 90 per cent of a person's brain develops by age five, added Anderson.
Elizabeth Pennell, Nanaimo school district's early years coordinator, said awareness about the importance of learning is growing in the community – every single Parent-Child Mother Goose program the partnership has run in the city has had a wait list of families.
Both Pennell and Anderson hope for a long-term funding commitment from the province rather than a year-by-year announcement of funds.