Connecting Immigrant Families With Literacy

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When Narinder Gill's five-year-old son Japjot arrived at his first day of kindergarten, he had a smile on his face and was looking forward to school. His smile was thanks to the Parents as Literacy Supporters (PALS) sessions he had attended in Abbotsford earlier that year. These sessions were specifically designed for families whose first language is Punjabi.

"We grew up with different learning techniques, but at PALS we learn by playing," explained Narinder. "You are there with your child to learn and to help them in their learning process."

During the PALS sessions, Narinder discovered activities to connect with her son's school and learned strategies for encouraging learning in both English and Punjabi. Together, they played games and activities that introduced language, numeracy and other skills in fun and interactive ways.

Narinder and Japjot were one of 113 families who participated in PALS sessions, offered in Punjabi, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Karen and Farsi, in 2008. With support from 2010 Legacies Now and the federal and provincial governments, these sessions were hosted in elementary schools in five B.C. communities and welcomed families, with preschool- or kindergarten-aged children, who have lived in Canada for up to three years.

"I would really recommend PALS to immigrant parents who don't know much about this country or how the schools system works here," said Narinder. "I hope by sharing my story I can help other immigrant families."

Now that Japjot is in kindergarten, he is learning new skills, but at home Narinder can still use the activities and games they learned at PALS, so she stays actively involved in her son's learning.

Parents as Literacy Supporters (PALS) provides families with fun, interactive activities to encourage learning in preschool and kindergarten-aged children. The program is supported by the Province of British Columbia.