When it was released at the beginning of last month, the Surrey Libraries' 2012 Literacy Day Report raised some eyebrows when it was revealed Surrey had a 32 per cent vulnerability rating when it came to early learning.
The figure meant that a third of Surrey's children were at risk facing some sort of difficulty when it comes to their development, be it socially, physically, emotionally or cognitively.
However, in the wake of the report, the Surrey school district and Surrey Public Library are hoping to raise awareness among parents that there are programs in place aimed at curbing their child's vulnerability.
While the study looks at the vulnerability rating of children as they enter kindergarten, Christy Northway, district principal of education services for the Surrey school district said there are a number of ways parents can prepare their children for development before they ever step foot into a classroom.
"We have a program called StrongStart, and it's just magical," said Northway. "It's really a place that children and families run to and it's a place where they learn new ways to support learning within the program and at home and it really establishes early connections with the school."
By utilizing storytelling, arts and play activities, Northway says StrongStart is a chance for preschool age children to begin making inroads not only in their personal development, but in developing relationships with schools.
"We know that early connections with the school serve learners and children well as they move through their K-12 experience," said Northway.
StrongStart is currently offered at 22 Surrey schools.
Another key program, said Northway, is the school district's Parents as Literacy Supporters (PALS) program, which is offered in more than 35 Surrey schools.
"It really supports families through active, purposeful play with their children and focuses on physical development, cognitive development and it helps parents help their children develop those important language and literacy skills," explained Northway. "That investment early has a profound impact as children transition into the formal years of schooling."
For those who may also be facing a language barrier, Northway said there are different versions of PALS.
"We also offer IPALS at three of our schools, which is program for immigrant families and on top of that, we also have aboriginal PALS," she said.
Over at Surrey Public Library, chief librarian Melanie Houlden explained that early literacy programs in place at Surrey's various branches can also go a long way in helping children during their formative years.
"The library has historically been involved with parents and their kids in promoting literacy," said Houlden. "Even story times are just a fun thing to do. It introduces kids to a literacy and parents to the importance of reading to their kid. We're really interested in having parents read with their kids and understand that it's not just an important experience but it also lays down the network in the brain and that child is able to develop the neuropathways developed while reading."
With that in mind, Houlden explained the library has a variety of programs available to early learners, including a library card program for kindergartners.
"We really just encourage every child in kindergarten to get a library card and we partner with the school district on that," said Houlden. "We send a package home to every parent to advise them it's free and we talk about that early introduction to reading and how it is attached to early brain development.
"People need to understand there's a whole bunch the parent can do to develop their child."
The libraries also offer a storytime session, which Houlden says can go a long way in laying the groundwork for a child's language acquisition.
"We tell parents that it's important to read with their child in any language, it doesn't matter that it's in English, just the acquisition of any language, be it English or Punjabi," said Houlden.
For children struggling with English, Houlden also noted there are bilingual story sessions available in order to aid the English learning process for children.
"These are programs prior to kindergarten entry," explained Northway. "These are the intervention programs we're providing prior to school to address some of those issues." firstname.lastname@example.org