Share your favourite Christmas story with us the holiday season

December 4th, 2014 by Community Literacy Committee 2 comments »

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Stories and Christmas go together like shortbread and milk.

They are just meant to be together – and no matter if they are deliciously good, old and stale, or melt in our mouths – we love them.

I didn’t grow up with Christmas stories. As soon as the first decorations went up, we sang. In the car, in the house, wherever we were. And despite my lousy singing I recall shouting at the top of my lungs with the rest. That’s how it is with ritual. You don’t know where they start or why. You don’t know you should be quiet if you don’t sing like Streisand, Adele, or even Idina Menzel. You just sing.

New traditions

With my own kids, the Christmas tradition became reading stories. We were always heading somewhere to visit relatives and this usually included neverending rides in cars and on ferries. In those, ‘pre-tablet days’ we gathered up armloads of Christmas picture books. Endless stories. Give me some gorgeous drawings, a happy wintertime scene and teary ending and I am sold for life. And there’s no better place to find those stories than at the local library .

Other stories have been lucky surprises. I recall laughing hysterically with my eldest while sitting in our car for 10 minutes outside a Christmas party the first time we ever heard Stuart Maclean’s Dave Cooks the Turkey on CBC.

And I remember throwing in a hand-me-down CD of Dylan Thomas’ A Child’s Christmas in Wales into the car stereo as a last resort one long Christmas Day drive. I admit I had never really heard the whole thing. But it is mercifully long and kept everyone silent for what seemed like forever that cold morning.

Twenty years later, we still throw it on each Christmas morning as we head off into the hustle and bustle. We know the funny bits by heart and grow silent as Dylan does toward the end. It’s just what we do.

Check out storytimes in your neighbourhood

That’s how it is with Christmas. Traditions begin when we are busy trying to get through chaos and – if we are lucky – keep us company for a long time. If you’d like to start a Christmas reading tradition with your family check out the local Christmas Storytimes for adults and children at either the Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows FVRL branches this December.

We are making a list and checking it twice

And in the mean time, we at the MRPMK Literacy Committee are wondering what kind of books you are reading with your shortbread and milk? Please share them with us on Facebook or Twitter. We will make a list and put it up close to Christmas for others to see. Who knows you might start a new tradition for someone.

Lynn Easton

Cash in on improving your Financial Literacy

November 15th, 2014 by Community Literacy Committee No comments »

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By Lynn Easton


Sounds like a secret language, right? And like any language it can be hard to understand and difficult to learn.And no wonder. While November marks Financial Literacy month chances are learning about money was never part of your education. Even today, where there’s at least a bit of talk about financial issues in school, the subject is still a bit of a taboo subject in public.

Many of us came from homes where financial issues were whispered about late at night when we were supposed to be asleep. So it’s no wonder that a new study shows that more than two-thirds of Canadians feel uncomfortable with their financial skills.

That makes sense.

But the good news is that there’s all kinds of help out there. Local, well-established, banking institutions will be happy to offer information and advice. And there’s help online too. Check out a few things on the well-respected Canadian ABC Life Literacy site ABC Life Literacy will also host a conversation on Financial Literacy Month on November 20th 10 a.m. at #FLMchat

Forget the late whispers. Talking about financial literacy with each other seems like a pretty good place to start.






Lifelong Learning Can Be Fun

July 22nd, 2014 by Community Literacy Committee No comments »

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By Lynn Easton


I’ve been learning Gaelic from YouTube.

Even when I write that down, I don’t quite believe it. I have never been good at languages, but my daughter thought it would be a fun bonding experience for the two of us to learn an ancient Celtic language that’s just a tad tough to converse in anywhere outside of the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. And fun it is!

So I happily raised a glass and said a proper Gaelic toast recently to all the other Adult Learners challenging themselves in ways they never dreamed of as I quietly marked the 13th annual UNESCO Adult Learning Week in Canada.

See, you just learned something too. Adult Learning Week celebrates the ideals of lifelong learning and originated more than a decade ago the United Nations deemed that lifelong learning was important enough to celebrate. Ever since, literacy organizations across Canada have embraced the celebration and the sentiment.

The idea is to honour all types of adult learners and to include people from a variety of literacy levels when creating programs.

Adult Learning Week proponents encourage us to keep the brain active to help create a better quality of life.   My mother just took up Sudoku to add to her crossword habit in hope of staving off the dreaded memory loss. A friend of mine is back at SFU to finish the degree she began in 1968. Both are happier than ever.

In our community you can continue to learn in so many ways it could make your head spin. You can even learn to spin—on a bike or a loom. You can learn to knit, knead bread, build a compost, or build a website.

There are a growing number of adults heading back to school, upgrading their education, or seeking out literacy help. School District’s Riverside Centre is an ideal spot to look upgrade your high school education and to improve your English.

And the MRPMK Community Literacy Committee is the place to call if you need help with reading, writing, or conversational English.  We can help lead you to the right place to start your learning journey, or get you started right away with a one-to-one tutor. Give us a call at 604-721-3738 or 604-220-5231.

And we’d love to read your comments—right here—about the types of learning you are doing or the types of literacy assistance you’d like to see available in our community. In the meantime, I have to get back to my YouTube lessons.   Slainte!


Summer Literacy Learning: Keep your Kids off the Summer Slide

July 2nd, 2014 by Community Literacy Committee No comments »

What happens when young minds aren’t in school for three months? It’s called the summer slide, a decline in school skills such as literacy that can happen to kids over the summer vacation.


You can help prevent the summer slide by keeping learning and literacy alive over the summer. Why not start now by implementing some of these tips?

  • Visit the library. Many local libraries have summer programs, including reading groups for all ages.
  • Fill the house with reading material. Stock up on children’s books so your kids have plenty of choice. There’s no need to buy new—many secondhand bookstores have great options, as do garage sales, thrift stores, and libraries. Why not host a book swap with fellow parents?
  • Be an example. Let your kids see you read the newspaper, magazines, books … the list goes on.
  • Let it be fun! Encourage your kids by letting them choose their own books—whether or not you’d define them as literature.
  • Encourage writing projects. Give your child a notebook to keep as a summer journal or scrapbook, or write letters or thank-you notes together.
  • Look for opportunities. Summer vacations can be full of learning opportunities. Teach your child to read a map, so he or she can help navigate a road trip; follow a simple recipe for chocolate chip cookies together; or look up flowers, trees, or mushrooms in a nature guide. It may not seem like it to your child, but these are both important literacy—and life—skills.


What about you? How do you foster learning over the summer holidays? Let us know your tips, tricks, and stories by posting a comment below!


by Leah Payne

ESL Women’s Conversation Group Celebrates Summer

June 29th, 2014 by Community Literacy Committee No comments »

About a dozen members of the Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows ESL Women’s English Conversation group have been meeting each week since last September. They came together for a delicious feast to celebrate the year and welcome in summer.

Community and District Literacy Plan Highlights

June 12th, 2014 by Community Literacy Committee No comments »

The Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows Katzie Community Literacy Committee (CLC) focuses its efforts on improving literacy outcomes in our community by increasing services to adult learners through collaboration while increasing awareness of literacy in our community.  Over the past three years, the CLC has achieved many positive outcomes and built a solid foundation for future literacy initiatives.

The attached Community and District Literacy Plan highlights some of our successes, identifies some challenges and lays out the direction of the Committee for 2014-15.  The Literacy plans defines the work that the Committee and the Literacy Outreach Workers will do in the coming 12 months. 


OECD Report on Literacy Skills

May 28th, 2014 by Community Literacy Committee No comments »

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) provides a forum in which governments can work together to share experiences and seek solutions to common problems. They work with governments to understand what drives economic, social and environmental change.

In a recent OECD Report on Literacy Skills entitled, Skilled for Life?, the OECD emphasizes the importance of Literacy Skills:

“Those with low literacy skills are also more than twice as likely to be unemployed.”

To access the entire report, click HERE.


Canadian government quietly collapses the national literacy and essential skills network

May 28th, 2014 by Community Literacy Committee No comments »

The Canadian Literacy and Learning Network is the national hub for research, information and knowledge exchange, increasing literacies and essential skills across Canada. CLLN, a non-profit charitable organization, represents literacy coalitions, organizations and individuals in every province and territory in Canada. They share knowledge, engage partners and stakeholders and build awareness to advance literacy and learning across Canada.

In a recent news release, they challenge the government’s rationale for ending Canada’s national literacy and essential skills network:

“Without an announcement or any consultation, it appears that the federal government has decided to quietly collapse Canada’s national literacy and essential skills network. This is happening at the same time as community literacy programs across Canada experience a seismic shift and uncertainty of sustained operations, while millions of dollars in federal funding is being effectively diverted from federal-provincial Labour Market Agreements and redirected to the unproven Canada Job Grant program.”

To read the entire news release, click HERE.


Tell and Respond to Stories

April 6th, 2014 by Community Literacy Committee No comments »

The Power of Stories

by Terry Small

We are all soft-wired to tell and respond to stories.

Phillip Pullman said, “After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”

He’s probably right. Stories are a powerful organizing tool for your brain’s neural network. A well-told, timely story can literally reshape the brain.

Stories give people a chance, not to see who they are, but who they might become. Narrative is powerful. Stories allow our brain to see the world differently. They give us hope.  Neuroscientists are investigating the science of hope.  It turns out that a feeling of hopefulness changes your brain.

The following article excerpt by Terry Small and published in Brain Bulletin #47: The Science of Hope attests to the power of Stories.  To read the full article please visit:

The Science of Hope.

Hope is important for your brain.

Neuroscientists are investigating the science of hope. It turns out that a feeling of hopefulness changes your brain. Your brain pumps chemicals when experiencing the sensation of hope. These chemicals can block pain and accelerate healing.

Hope, which involves belief and expectation, causes the brain to release neurochemicals called endorphins and enkephalins which actually mimic the effects of morphine. The result is that the brain can overcome hurdles and move to a place of recovery. In scientific terms, hope and recovery are not causally connected, but they are correlated.

I believe hope is as vital to the brain as the oxygen we breathe.

Times are difficult these days. A feeling of hopefulness can make a real difference!

What do I do for my brain? I feed my brain stories that paint a clear picture of hope.

Stories are the #1 brain state changer on the planet! Stories do far more than entertain. Neuroscientists believe that our brains are wired for stories. Stories captivate the brain. They release emotions that are inextricably tied to those of the story’s characters. Brain scientists call this “narrative transport”.

I believe storytelling has become a casualty of our busy, hectic pace of life. Parents, leaders, teachers….everyone should tell more stories. Remember a story is not a story until it is told.

To read more about Terry Small’s work and some of the stories he finds particularly enjoyable, visit his website at:



Book reviews: Stories to make your students laugh

April 5th, 2014 by Community Literacy Committee No comments »
Stories to make your child laugh.

Stories to make your child laugh.

This article was written by Lucinda Tooker for teachers and published in the Teacher Magazine Volume 26, Number 5, March 2014. We thought it would also be very useful for parents looking to engage their children in reading. We thank Lucinda for allowing us to post it here. DM

Stories to make your students laugh

By Lucinda Tooker

I am always looking for picture books that lend themselves to lessons relating to the 6 Pillars of Character ( British children’s author Jeanne Willis and illustrator Tony Ross have teamed up for a number of suitable picture books, published by Andersen Press.

Flabby Cat and Slobby Dog are completely out of control. They are probably depressed, and their sole coping mechanism is to eat and watch TV. When they discover that everything in the house is shrinking (because of their expanding girths), they seek help from their distant cousins—the wild wolf and the cunning tiger. This book is really funny, and it gently conveys a message about the benefits of getting off the couch and leading an active lifestyle. Perfect for nutrition month in March!

Your parents would probably be relieved to read a bad report card, if the alternative was to lose you to a biker gang. So goes the premise of Big, Bad Bun, written as a letter from Fluff to his parents describing his misadventures with The Hell Bunnies. He really has only run as far as Grandma’s, where his parents pick him up after reading the bad report card Fluff tucked under his pillow. Personal accountability is discussion topic arising from this story.

When Colin Smally, the youngest of 10, heads outside for the very first time, his over-protective mother wraps him in cotton to keep him safe. But poor Cottonball Colin is not as safe as she had hoped! Still he has the time of his life, and thereafter is permitted to go out, unprotected, into the great, wide world. “Sometimes he got scared, and sometimes he got hurt. But ohhhh…it was worth it!” As with the other books, the illustrations add to the story, allowing readers to speculate about the validity of his mother’s concern.

Lucinda Tooker, teacher-librarian, Maple Ridge