Vietnamese Families Love Their PALS

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Vietnamese-born Ha Nguyen moved to Canada over 17 years ago and immediately experienced the value of learning English as a second language. Now with the ability to read and speak English, Nguyen is turning her focus to teaching her young children the same skills.

Two years ago, Nguyen started taking PALS classes with her three-year-old son, Sivutha. Offered by 2010 Legacies Now in conjunction with 21 school districts across the province, PALS (Parent as Literacy Supporters) provides parents with skills and techniques to support literacy and numeracy skills in their preschool and kindergarten-aged children. The Langley-area program Nguyen participated in was a pilot for immigrant families, where the instruction materials and children's books were available in both English and Vietnamese.

The program started with basic learning techniques, but expanded to include English as a second language and computer lessons for the parents. Having experienced the benefits of PALS for both her son and herself, Nguyen set out to convince other Vietnamese parents to take part in the sessions.

"At first they were worried, but now they are not afraid to say something in English. It's really good for them," said Nguyen. Nguyen is such a believer in the program, she is now returning with her two-year-old daughter, Samantha.

PALS typically consists of 10 monthly sessions that feature playful learning exercises for the children, as well as hands-on instruction for the parents on how to utilize a range of materials, such as puzzles, games, riddles, rhymes, story books, common road signs and product labels to help reinforce early learning at home. Nguyen, says that it wasn't easy at first to convince other parents, who typically go to work in the pre-dawn hours, to take time out to attend sessions they felt would amount to little more than play-time.

"I tell them you can't think like that," she says with wide-eyed conviction. "The kids are young, but they can learn a lot of things."

One of the best things about being in PALS she says is watching her co-participants' confidence grow the more they spoke English during the PALS sessions, adding that she has friends as far away as Burnaby who hope to have an opportunity to participate.

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.