For Winnipeg’s most disadvantaged toddlers, a lack of literacy skills development before the age of five puts them at a serious disadvantage even before they start school. Community Education Development Association (CEDA) has a number of programs working to eliminate these barriers.
Offering programming for babies is especially important given the critical brain development that takes place from birth to age five.
“Little babies are like little sponges – their brains are still under development,” explains Kathy Mallet, co-director of CEDA.
A lack of access to literacy resources and a lack of parental support and participation can impede a child’s readiness for school. Literacy programming provides a much-needed foundation for life-long learning, improved health and economic well-being.
CEDA’s Stay and Play is a drop-in program for parents with babies up to 4 years of age. Literacy skills are developed through play and story-telling, book reading and conversation. The program is community-led by the aboriginal families in the inner city.
“Parents need to know that it’s important to read to your babies, to talk to your babies,” Mallett says. She believes there’s a real shortage of literacy programming directed towards babies.
“Right now in the North End there’s no one talking about little babies except us. They talk about the youth, they talk about the children, but no one’s talking about the babies.”
CEDA also advocates for social justice in early childhood development through their Aboriginal Children Count initiative. The initiative aims to diffuse the cookie cutter approach in programming – instead infusing aboriginal teachings into programming for aboriginal children.
“It’s really talking about the need that if government wants to develop programs here in the North End, they need to target the program (to the individuals),” says Mallet.
The initiative was developed with the understanding that a targeted approach is necessary to overcome the intergenerational trauma – including the lasting legacy of residential schools – that has impacted aboriginal people.
Through discussions with aboriginal community members, CEDA gathered information on the programming and values they believe are important to impart to aboriginal children. The framework developed includes the Medicine Wheel and the Seven Teachings. CEDA has used that information to create a presentation and awareness campaign.
“It’s very emotional for folks,” Mallett says of the campaign. “It’s very eye opening.”
Mallet will make a presentation about CEDA’s initiatives, including Stay and Play and the Aboriginal Children Count campaign, on Wednesday, March 27 at 2 p.m. at the Free Press Café. The presentation is part of an event focusing on innovative approaches to early learning, presented by the Winnipeg Foundation and Community News Commons.
For more information about the Aboriginal Children Count initiative, contact Kathy Mallett at 204-582-5800.
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