Breaking Down Language Barriers as a Community

 
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Moving to a new community can be difficult. You may not know anyone, you need to learn about local resources and amenities, and you need to get yourself and your family settled. For newcomers and refugees, language barriers can add an additional layer of stress to joining a community. This is especially true for parents and children.

Project READ Literacy Network Waterloo-Wellington is a local organization offering programs for families. In their Get Set Learn for Newcomers – English Language Program, parents are able to learn about preparing their children for school in our community while developing English language skills.

“Parents participating in the program learn and practice activities they can do with their children at home,” explained Jennifer Hewitt, Project READ’s Family Literacy Coordinator. “These include talking, reading, singing, and play activities.”

Both parents and their children aged birth to six years old engage in a skill and play-based program, and parents don’t need to worry about childcare options while they participate in a parent-only hour, which includes discussions and workbook activities that help them enhance their skills and gain confidence while practicing English language skills.

Since the program brings together various newcomer parents, participants are also able to meet each other, exchange stories, and form relationships in our community.

“This program helps families become part of our community and develop a sense of belonging,” Jennifer explained. “As parents make and strengthen relationships with others, they tell us they become more confident and are ready to help others and give back to their community.”

The program addresses two priority areas that were recently identified by Wellbeing Waterloo Region: healthy children and youth, and social inclusion. “Our main focus is on parents,” continued Jennifer. “We know they play a vital role as their children’s first teachers, and that with the tools they need, they are in a position to make the biggest difference in their child’s school success. Our program offers parents a chance to learn and develop those needed skills.”

Thanks to a grant from Kitchener Waterloo Community Foundation (KWCF), Project READ will be able to offer the Get Set Learn for Newcomers – English Language Program to ten new families with pre-school-aged children at the Victoria Hills Community. The grant will assist in hiring an ESL Instructor, who will work with the Family Literacy Coordinator to deliver the program.

Project READ has also partnered with the City of Kitchener to deliver this program, as well as the Victoria Hills Neighbourhood Association, to provide staff and spread awareness of the program throughout the community.

More information about the Get Set Learn for Newcomers – English Language Program can be found online at www.getsetlearn.ca.