Not only did the “Families Learning Together” literacy celebration in Emo grow this year, but the 45 parents who attended really appreciated the event.
“It was incredibly helpful,” parent Anne Marie Vanderaa said of the second-annual event, which was held last Thursday at Donald Young School.
“I think you have to, as an involved parent, stay on top of it and find out what’s going on,” she added. “The way we were taught isn’t necessarily how our children are being taught.”
“Now that I went, I really appreciate it,” echoed parent Reta Dykstra, who didn’t attend last year’s event. “And I think if more people would come, they would see how worthwhile it is.”
Last year’s inaugural literacy celebration saw just 19 parents attend, so DYS teacher and organizer Diane Carlson was pleased with the turnout this time around.
Parents from surrounding schools, like Sturgeon Creek and Crossroads, also were invited.
“We had over 100 people here, with the parents, kids, and presenters,” enthused Carlson, who noted some changes this year included adding a supper, bringing in a guest speaker, holding it in the evening, and incorporating math workshops.
“We had quite a few math workshops this time round—it was to let the parents know some alternate ways of doing things,” she explained.
“We’re so used to the old way of doing addition, subtraction, and some parents are trying to teach the kids those ways and they’re not ready for them yet.”
Vanderaa, who attended last year’s event, which focused solely on literacy, admitted she wasn’t aware of some of these alternate ways of teaching when it came to math.
“It was very enlightening to see the methods they’re using to teach children math,” she remarked. “It’s something [my husband] and I never experienced before and we enjoyed seeing the tools you can use to help your child.”
One workshop provided parents with “number” activities they could do at home with their children.
“I really liked that one,” said Dykstra. “I found the materials I got were really good. . . .
“And I found it interesting how you want to go out and buy all this learning stuff for your kids, but the information she gave was just so simple and it’s all stuff you can do at home.
“The kids wouldn’t even realize they were learning because it’s just like playing a game.”
The presenter had prepared packages with information sheets, laminated game boards, bingo chips, cards, and other items for parents to take home.
“I wish I could have had hours of that,” agreed Vanderaa. “They are useful tools. In fact, we’ve already used them at home.
“They’re great to do with your kids to teach them addition and subtraction.”
Parents were able to attend three of the six workshops offered, which included some literacy workshops, too. One focused on boys and literacy.
“I really appreciated the information they gave there,” said Dykstra. “Just how you have to look at it a little different with boys versus girls, and [the presenters] were quite enthusiastic getting that point through.”
Carlson also felt the various workshops were well-received.
“The parents seemed very excited about the things they learned in the workshops and the goodies that they took away with them,” she enthused. “It was really nice to see.”
She noted the inclusion of math workshops may have brought more parents out to the event, as well as holding it in the evening as opposed to on a Saturday.
And she thought providing supper likely made it easier for parents, as well.
In addition, Joe McLellan, author of a series of “Nanabosho” books for children, was a big hit as the guest speaker.
“He was humorous and interactive with the kids,” said Vanderaa.
“The kids were excited about seeing the author because we were putting a big push on that at school,” added Carlson, though noting she had hoped more children would have come out.
“I think parents look at it and think it is just for them, which it is, but it’s nice to see the kids out and that’s why we offered the child care,” she explained.
“It’s not too often we have authors coming through this area, so when you do, you want to make the best of it.”
McLellan had been the guest speaker at Rainy River’s literacy event last year and was very well-received there.
Carlson said she hasn’t had much time to think about next year’s literacy celebration, including whether it’ll take a different focus or if it will continue on the same path.
“I know some parents commented they’d like to have longer workshops because a half-an-hour wasn’t long enough, especially ones where they were getting a lot of good ideas,” she said.
“And I think a combination of math and language again would be a benefit.”
But whatever the case, she hopes next year will see even more parents turn out.
“As word gets out, maybe we’ll get more parents on board,” she remarked. “You want everyone out, but obviously that’s not going to happen and so we’re thankful for the ones who do come out because it was a success with them.”
Carlson also was pleased with the community partners who came out to provide information booths, as well as the volunteers who offered their time.
“It made the whole evening go much smoother,” she stressed. “We had people pitching in to do little jobs—the little jobs which add up to big jobs in the end.”
“They really put a lot of work into it,” added Vanderaa. “It was good for the sense of community to show parents are interested in their children’s learning.”
Similar literacy events also were held last Thursday at Riverview (Rainy River), J.W. Walker (Fort Frances), and North Star (Atikokan).