Classroom on Wheels shows there's more to literacy than books
By: By Nicole Starker
| Posted: Saturday, Sep 01, 2012 06:00 am
A giant cow parked itself in front of St. Albert Place Thursday afternoon, in an effort to help parents foster literacy in their pre-school-aged children.
The Classroom on Wheels (C.O.W.) Bus travels the province inviting parents to explore new ways to add literacy activities to their daily family lives.
“Literacy is more than just reading and writing, it’s being able to actually comprehend and understand and to be able to participate in society,” said program co-ordinator Megan Vander Griend. “And family literacy is about getting parents and caregivers involved in taking that role and engaging their kids right from birth, all the way through.”
The C.O.W. Bus, as it’s called, is painted in a black and white cow print pattern, making it easily recognizable when it travels to Alberta communities. It even has a horn that moos, which leaves little visitors grinning. The converted school bus has a cozy carpeted and colourful interior with little shelves and chairs and places for children and parents to read and play.
“We have a lot of homemade activities on the bus … old calendar puzzles, ‘I Spy’ bottles, memory games, just things that parents can make at home,” Vander Griend said.
Cathy Schwer and her four daughters had fun taking part in the activities on the cow bus.
“We played some games, read a storybook, did some puzzles, made some castles,” Schwer said.
Schwer’s daughter Courtney, 9, said the bus was “pretty awesome.” Her favourite activity was listening to her mom read a Scaredy Squirrel book to her and her younger sisters.
In addition to the afternoon activities on the bus, the Classroom on Wheels team offered an evening workshop for parents to emphasize the importance of early literacy for their children.
“It’s just the everyday things that we do so it’s getting your little kids plugged in to reading, working on puzzles together, making a grocery list together, talking about what you see outside, singing songs together,” Vander Griend said. “It’s all early literacy and it’s all so important in laying the foundations of learning before kids even go to school.”
At the end of the session parents get a chance to make their own homemade books to take home.
About 30 parents were scheduled to attend the St. Albert workshop. It was the largest parent session the bus has hosted so far this summer, Vander Griend said.
The bus is operated by the Centre for Family Literacy, which is funded by Alberta Enterprise and Advanced Education. The bus travels year-round, making a minimum of 60 stops. Last year it made 81 visits around the province.