Creating a FLAP around literacy and early childhood development

In Alberta’s Lamont County, innovative program fosters parent-and-child engagement

Research suggests birth through age six as a critical period for a child’s development.

And since there are no dress rehearsals and no mulligans for a career in parenthood, a central Alberta organization is providing some on-the-job assistance.

The Lamont County Community Adult Learning Council, based about an hour north of Edmonton, offers Family Learn and Play (FLAP)—a family literacy development program to benefit both parents and children.

“As we all know, parenthood doesn’t come with a manual,” says council director Debbie Holland. “But all parents come with skills. We just enhance what they have and help them look at things through a different lens.”

FLAP fosters parent-child engagement by creating a stimulating environment, including rhyme and song hours that are led by a key facilitator. Child care is also included in the program to allow for parents-only discussion on various current topics.

Christy Bear, a program participant since 2012, says FLAP gave her the confidence and skills she needed to raise her two children after her family relocated to rural Lamont County.

“The program has helped me immensely . . . I feel I can really open up my heart while developing a sense of trust with my peers,” says Bear. “At home, it’s great to hear (my kids) sing songs from FLAP and ask me to read them a book.”

A true testament to the program, Bear is currently training to become one of the very facilitators she relied on in earlier years.

In classes of typically 20 parent and child duos, demonstrating children’s development is of utmost importance. While the program is designed for parents, the children reap the benefits.

“When we see a child reaching for a book, that’s an emerging literacy,” says Holland. “Being able to share that with the parent means they are starting to see the positive impact they are making on their children.”

The Lamont County Community Adult Learning Council is part of a loose affiliation of about 125 organizations and non-profits across Alberta that provide literacy and lifelong learning opportunities. This network stretches from Grande Prairie to Medicine Hat, and is supported by provincial government funding and church partnerships.

Enbridge is committed to strengthening the social fabric in communities where we operate. In 2016, we invested $4.08 million in community-strengthening initiatives across Alberta, while our employee-driven 2017 United Way campaigns in Calgary and Edmonton raised $1.72 million and $1.58 million, respectively.

We recently made a $5,000 donation to support the continued operation of the FLAP program, one of many community programs offered in Lamont County.

“After participants come through our door, we try to weave them in and out of where we think they may also find aid,” says Holland.

Holland’s hope for the near future is to bring more partners to the table in an effort to identify extended services worth pursuing. Current plans include a financial literacy course and expanded food service programs.

“Witnessing the growth in these people,” she says, “is very meaningful.”