It takes a village to build a lifelong love of reading

Photo: Literacy for Life participant, 2007. Turtle Island Tots and Families program, R.B. Russell Infant Centre

Learning is a lifelong journey. It is remarkable when grandparents, parents and children can learn together. Honing literacy skills benefits entire families as the importance of reading and learning is passed through generations. This is the goal of The Winnipeg Foundation’s Literacy for Life Fund.

The fund is an endowment supporting family literacy programs in libraries and community centres across Manitoba. It was established in 2003 through a partnership between The Foundation, Literacy Partners of Manitoba and the Winnipeg Public Library. It was the first, in what has become a series of endowments, established by The Winnipeg Foundation to meet the needs of children. It is unique in that it is the only Foundation fund that grants to organizations province-wide.

The original goal of the fund was to build a $2 million endowment to generate approximately $100,000 per year for small grants ¬ up to a maximum of $4,000 per project. Thanks to the generosity of the three levels of government and donors, the fund has now reached $2.25 million. As of October 2020, a cumulative total of 556 Literacy for Life grants have been awarded totalling more than $1.8 million.

Many of the supported programs focus on meeting the needs of newcomers, the Indigenous community, isolated families, teen parents and people who face educational and financial barriers.

The St. Malo Little Métis Sing with Me program, run by the Louis Riel Institute, is one such program. Funded since 2013, the program brings families together for rhyme and song circle, take home book sharing, the Michif language and craft time. A Métis dance circle ends off each session, with fun and active songs that have caregivers, grandparents, parents and children alike tapping their toes to jigging music.

Children sitting on a blanket listening to a teacher reading a book
Little Métis Sing with Me participants, 2014.

The Little Métis Sing with Me program provides a reason for intergenerational interaction and naturally leads to providing parental support and helps build the bonds needed for children to grow happy and healthy. “We enjoy getting out of the house, the kids have a blast playing with the other kids, doing crafts and dancing,” shared a participant in 2018. The program creates a space where Métis culture and heritage is embraced and celebrated.

Family literacy programs funded through Literacy for Life help develop language and reading skills, build more confident parents and stronger families, and in turn, healthier communities.

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