Helena Tian

Helena Tian

Literacy program targets families new to Canada

NANAIMO – Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters assists immigrant mothers prep children for kindergarten.

Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters has launched in Nanaimo and will assist immigrant mothers to prepare children for kindergarten.

Thanks to a grant from Citizenship and Immigration Canada, children between three and five years will have the opportunity to develop literacy and cognitive skills with the help of mothers through the national program. Initially, the funding will allow 25 immigrant families to take part in the program, dubbed HIPPY.

The Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Society and Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre are teaming up to find other funding sources for the program. It consists of a 30-week curriculum and mothers are assisted by experienced mothers who pay regular visits to their homes, delivering books and activities geared toward the child’s needs. It’s especially valuable for mothers with issues of language and culture, according to Hilde Schlosar, multicultural society executive director. She said the curriculum consists of something different each week.

“It’s reading stories and discussing the stories … creative play, constructive play with shapes and colouring and sitting down and spending that time with the process of not just playing with your child but helping their child learn and develop in that time of play,” Schlosar said.

Helen Liu and daughter Lucy Huang will be participating in the program with home visitor Helena Tian.

“I have been here for seven months now and I have a daughter of four years and I feel a little isolated and we are also not good at English and that’s why we want to join this program, to help my child be ready for [school],” Liu said through Tian.

It is hoped that $40,000 can be raised by September and the program can be expanded to include 10 urban aboriginal families and one aboriginal home visitor.

According to Chris Beaton, aboriginal centre executive director, the program will assist his organization’s vision to see 100 per cent graduation rate among aboriginal students.

“Ten per cent of our population is under the age of four and we have a graduation rate of about 56 per cent in the [Nanaimo] school district,” Beaton said. “There’s a great need to better prepare our young people for school to connect them with existing programs and services and HIPPY does that in spades.”

The Nanaimo program is the first of its kind on Vancouver Island and the hope is that by 2016, funding can be secured so that other low-income families can be included.