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Literacy helps improve family’s life

Rajeeta Samala and her daughter Sahithi work together to create words in Scrabble. The board game was a favourite tool to help them improve their english skills after they immigrated to Canada. - MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER
Rajeeta Samala and her daughter Sahithi work together to create words in Scrabble. The board game was a favourite tool to help them improve their english skills after they immigrated to Canada.
— image credit: MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER

Monday is Family Literacy Day in Canada.

For Rajeeta Samala, it was literacy that brought her family to Canada.

When Samala and her husband Jithender Reddy had their daughter Sahithi, they wanted to ensure she’d have every chance at success in her life. They even timed her birth so she’d be able to start school at the earliest opportunity.

But they couldn’t do anything about the educational system into which she’d been born. In Bahrain, where the family was living at the time, there’s limited post-secondary opportunities. In their native India, Rajeeta explains, learning is so book-based, there’s no allowance in the curriculum for social or physical development.

So in 2009 Rajeeta, a teacher, packed up her family and moved to Canada.

“We knew she’d need a good educational system,” says Rajeeta. “We wanted her to be able to apply her schooling to real life.”

While the family already spoke English, when they arrived in their new home they realized they had much to learn about Canada’s culture.

So they went to the library.

Having such ready access to so many books was foreign to them. Being able to bring them home an amazing gift.

Together Rajeeta and Sahithi read books like Little Critters, Berenstein Bears, Judy Jones.

“It was fun,” says Sahithi, 10. “They had jokes and we both enjoyed them together.”

As they read the stories, they’d talk about what might happen next, their favourite characters.

“It was a nice way to get together and share an experience,” says Rajeeta.

In fact, research by the Family Literacy Foundation shows having parents read aloud with their children helps them learn listening and language skills, as well as develop their imagination and creativity.

To improve their vocabulary the family played Scrabble, building words out of the little wooden letter tiles together rather than competitively, taking pleasure when one of them happened to be placed on a double or triple word score.

“It’s helped us so much,” says Rajeeta. “That was our goal to learning.”

“It came naturally,” says Sahithi of her love for reading. She visits the library at her school every week and the public library once a month, seeking out adventure and action stories, occasionally some comedy or suspense.

Sahithi says her reading skills have made her more confident and independent. Rajeeta says those traits will serve her daughter well as she finds her way in the world, assured that she’ll be able to try her hand at many things. And those reading sessions together have had a lasting impact on her own life; she’s the coordinator of the adult literacy program at Burnaby Neighbourhood House.

To learn more about Family Literacy Day, go to www.abclifeliteracy.ca.

 

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