Family Literacy Day

Family Literacy Day

Yesterday was Family Literacy Day, an event promoted by the privately run ABC Canada to encourage families to “read, write, surf and sing” together as a family. I’ve been asked by Dundurn to write up a blog post on this day, but really they didn’t have to tell me twice, even though circumstances beyond my control delayed this post.

I’m pleased to say that I read to my daughters, and we are instilling a love of books in Vivian, if only by osmosis. On Monday, to give Erin some time to herself, I took Vivian out to dinner and to a bookstore — a Chapters, as it happened, as it had a children’s play area. There, she sat and ‘read’ the little Dora books, played with Thomas the Tank Engine, and ran through the aisles and up and down the wheelchair ramp. The shopkeepers at Chapters were most understanding.

At this point, Vivian is looking at the pictures, but if she encounters a book that we read regularly (especially Dr. Seuss), she can recite some of the text off by heart. She recognizes individual letters but I don’t think she’s put it all together, yet, that these strange shaped things that she can name can be put together to make words — or, rather, that they have to be put together in the right way to make real words. But it’s fun to watch.

It used to be that taking Vivian to the bookstore was a move made in self defence. It was how Erin and I wrote when Vivian was younger: we’d pack her into her car seat and drive. She’d fall asleep for an hour or two and Erin would write on her laptop while I drove. I’d aim at a large bookstore out of town (like London or Burlington), so that when Vivian woke up, she’d have some place to play — while Erin kept an eye on her — while I sat in the coffee shop and wrote. Of course, Nora makes technique impossible, but I still find the venue useful, in getting Vivian to work out some of her pent-up energy, and also to surround her in books, to reinforce without preaching that books are cool and fun. (And so that we can be around books, which are cool and fun. It’s not all about Vivian.)

She may fall out of it, due to peer pressure, or the sudden inevitable realization that her parents aren’t cool and she is. But we’ll give it a try. As for Nora, I try to read to her, and manage to get most of the book done before she grabs it up to eat it. You can say that she likes to devour words.

Every day I’m filled with a sense of wonder at how the girls are growing. Vivian suddenly cares about colouring between the lines, and was recently heard singing about Silent E thanks to the new Electric Company. Nora, still a passionately physical child, loves to pull herself to her feet and sidle along the edges of things. I’ve always found it intimidating to think of how much stuff my daughters have to learn and how I am ever going to teach it to them, but they’re learning it themselves, whether I teach them or not. I suppose the least I can do is ensure that the right learning materials are handy. And in the end, perhaps that’s all that any parent can be expected to offer.


Guilty as Charged

The Squib’s Mark A Rayner pops a gasket over the phrase “shovel ready”:

Apparently this phrase has been around for some time, but it reached the dim consciousness of the media when President Obama used it on Meet the Press in early January. Since then reporters and talking heads have been repeating it like OCD parrots after too much espresso. (Yes, I’m saying that parrots drink espresso.) Clearly, this is the big BO’s first major gaffe.

The loathsome phrase crossed the border and infected the Great White North in the run up to today’s budget announcement….

…It would be more bearable if just occasionally a reporter explained what he or she meant by the phrase; if you do a little digging (sorry), you’ll discover that it means infrastructure projects that are prepared for immediate action — all they need is the funding. It’s a buzzword, and the reality is that most “shovel-ready” projects are going to take a little while to get going, even if governments do find a way to cut through some of the red tape that wraps up most public works projects like a straitjacket of crazy-making (and intensely itchy) bureaucracy.

You know what’s shovel-ready? The face of anyone who says it. Bong!

Well, I’m glad he wasn’t reading my blog when I wrote this post:

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has released a list of “shovel ready” municipal infrastructure projects that could create thousands of jobs this year and provide these cities with significantly improved infrastructure that will contribute to the economy for years to come. Any and all politicians at the federal level would be wise to champion this list.

When can I expect my shovel, Mark?

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