The Lincoln Centennial Parenting and Family Literacy Centre is one of four centres the District School Board of Niagara opened throughout the region this school year.
The purpose is to give children from infancy to six years old a head start in learning through play in a “real, feel good type of place,” said Wendy Faragalli, manager/co-ordinator of the centres.
There are also resources and a lending library for parents, stocked with books in different languages to cater to Niagara’s diverse population.
Faragalli said such centres have existed in Toronto for the past 20 years. A $372,000 grant from the Ministry of Education enabled to concept to spread to Niagara.
“We always talk about parents as partners” Faragalli said. “The DSBN has always said that we’re partners in education. Here’s our chance to do that.”
Not only do children learn colours, shapes, numbers and have access to activities they wouldn’t at home, they get used to school long before their first official day, thanks to some of the more structured activities, such as a reading circle.
The centres were also mentioned as a best practice in the Pascal report earlier this year, an example of community early years use in a school setting that provides resources to families of young children that assist in their development. Together with the hubs described in his report and full-day learning these help build a continuum of early years education and resources. They also help with school readiness, and often the more prepared a child is for that first day of JK, the better their chances of doing well in later assessments.