There’s a new player on the scene to help children develop early learning literacy skills. His name is Moe the Mouse, a cuddly stuffed toy through which a caregiver can tell stories, sing songs, read books, make sounds and interact with the kids. Moe has a series of animal friends that accompany him, generally to classrooms and early learning child care centres. To everyone’s delight, he can also go out on field trips or stay overnight at a child’s home!
The program draws from Aboriginal culture but can be used to develop speech and language skills in other languages as well. It generally includes a meal or snack. Parents and caregivers are invited to participate, promoting child/parent bonding as well as intergenerational learning and positive parenting skills.
The program The Friendly Giant, which aired on CBC television in the late 1950s through to 1985, played a similar role as Moe the Mouse when I was a kid. It featured three main characters: a giant named Friendly who lived in a huge castle, along with his puppet animal friends Rusty, a rooster who played a harp and lived in a book bag hung by the castle window, and Jerome, a giraffe. Through its gentle nature and simple repetition of its main elements, The Friendly Giant encouraged family literacy, a love of storytelling and music and imaginative play.
This type of language experience helps children learn sounds, but it also helps them to overcome shyness, boosts their self-confidence and stimulates their imaginations, all essential skills in a child’s journey towards lifelong learning.
Moe the Mouse(TM) was developed in British Columbia by speech and language pathologists
Anne Gardner and Margaret Chesterman, in partnership with the BC Aboriginal Child Care Society. It was introduced in Manitoba in 2011 to First Nations communities through the Aboriginal Head Start program and in Winnipeg, through Manidoo Gi Mini Gonaan with a grant from The Winnipeg Foundation. Since then, some twenty early learning child care workers in the Point Douglas area have received training in this innovative program.
Now under the auspices of Bookmates, the Moe the Mouse(TM) program will be readily available to all early learning and family literacy centres. The goal is to provide pre-school children with lots of opportunity to develop speech and language skills, long before they start school. Healthy Child Manitoba’s early development instrument (EDI) scores consistently indicate that young children in Winnipeg’s lower socio-economic neighbourhoods are not ready for Kindergarten. The community has decided that this is no longer acceptable!
Moe the Mouse(TM) is but one tool at their disposal to reverse this trend. To learn more, come to the Winnipeg Free Press Cafe at 237 McDermot Avenue (corner of McDermot and Arthur) on Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 2:00 pm, to meet grantees like this and to hear about the important programs they are delivering with the support of The Winnipeg Foundation.
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