Gaining Literacy Skills Eases Entry Into Kindergarten

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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 thanks to the Parents as Literacy Supporters (PALS) sessions he had attended in Abbotsford earlier this 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 for immigrant families, offered in Punjabi, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Karen and Farsi, this year. With support from 2010 Legacies Now and the provincial and federal governments, these sessions were hosted in elementary schools in five B.C. communities and were part of a three-year pilot program.

This pilot program was targetted specifically for families who have lived in Canada for up to three years and who have preschool and kindergarten-aged children.

"I would really recommend PALS to immigrant parents who don't know much about this country or how the school system works here," said Narinder.

The PALS early literacy development program was launched in 1999 by Dr. Jim Anderson, a professor at the University of British Columbia, and 2010 Legacies Now's Fiona Morrison. PALS helps family members and caregivers support their preschool- or kindergarten-aged children's literacy development.

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 active in 21 school districts and more than 220 locations throughout BC.

In 2008, PALS began a three-year pilot program for immigrant families, offered in English combined with Farsi, Karen, Mandarin, Punjabi or Vietnamese. The pilot program is offered in Abbotsford, Burnaby, Langley, North Vancouver and Surrey.

PALS was co-developed by Dr. Jim Anderson, a professor at the University of British Columbia, and Fiona Morrison, director of family literacy and early learning for 2010 Legacies Now. PALS is supported by the Province of British Columbia.