Emergent Literacy in Young Children

There has been much research regarding the importance of the early years. In fact, the Kiwanis International Magazine published a couple of thought provoking articles on the implications of recent brain re-search on early learning in early 1999.

In April of the same year, Co-chairs, Hon. Margaret Norrie McCain and Dr. J. Fraser Mustard published a summary of the evidence. In their Early Years Study, they concluded that "the period of early child development is equal to, or, in some cases, greater in importance for the quality of the next generation than the periods children and youth spend in education or post secondary education".

With every sight, sound and touch, a baby's brain develops its architecture and parents and other adults can contribute immeasurably to the building process. Early childhood experiences actually create this architecture or neuron connection in the brain. The new discoveries in brain research are a wake-up call for adults everywhere.

The Kiwanis Club of Ottawa, in response to the Early Years Study, established an Early Literacy Project under their Young Children - Priority One Committee, chaired by Sam Bhargava. The objective was to develop a project to assist parents, child care providers and other professionals to work actively in the pro-motion of language and literacy in young children. The vehicle to deliver our message is a 20 minute video that helps parents, early childhood caregivers, and other adults understand why they should – and how they can – help children begin to acquire literacy during the first three years of life.

The video presents recent exciting discoveries in neuro-science and models activities that viewers can do in their own homes with their own children to encourage the growth of early literacy. This project began with an inaugural meeting of an Advisory Board on October 29, 1999, with a follow-up meeting on November 30, 1999.

The list of participants was impressive with representation from various national and regional organizations which included practitioners from education, pediatrics, neurology, social services and related fields. These same professionals provided valuable feedback throughout the creative and time-consuming script-writing process.

Your Young Children - Priority One Committee is scheduled to complete video production in early October, a production that all Kiwanians can be very proud to have supported and one which our committee is anxious to unveil to the membership. Two final pieces to this project are currently being addressed – a communications plan and a campaign coordinator. The communication plan will tie various components together including the video jacket, posters, inserts and media (including the internet) so that an efficient, unified and high impact strategy will support the video product.

Our campaign coordinator, Derek Finley, a fellow Kiwanian, has been charged with the challenge of distributing this video to our end users. He'll play a key role with the development of our communication plan and indeed its ultimate implementation. He's currently investigating national alliances/partnerships to assist and possibly fund the distribution to organizations that come into daily contact with our target audience.

If you have comments or suggestions for our communication and distribution strategies, please forward them to Derek. His email address is canmap@primus.ca.

Prepared by Cas Sotelo YCPO Committee Vice-Chair 2000-01