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Children's Literacy Program Seeks Dads, Teen Moms

Sept. 11, 2004 — Open a book for a child, and she enters a world of wonder. The Mother Goose literacy program expands on that wonder, inviting both children and their parents to interact with the world around them, to solve mysteries, conduct experiments and develop a love of reading from an early age.
Mother Goose was brought to the Virgin Islands by the Vermont Center for the Book, and is run by the V.I. Institute for Teaching and Learning. Since 1996, the institute has offered Mother Goose Asks Why, which combines literature with science, and You Can Count on Mother Goose, which uses books to teach children to count, analyze, divide and share. Participants leave the sessions with a set of books, an activity kit and a study guide.
Teachers, parents, day-care workers and Head Start providers have been trained to conduct workshops for the Mother Goose literacy programs. So far most of the trainers and those taking the workshops have been women. But Karen Gutloff, executive director of the Institute, says they're trying to change that.
"We're really making an appeal for men to come out and be trainers in the dads program," Gutloff said. "We want to teach men how to deliver that program to other dads. Dads can ask questions to their kids, do bonding activities with them, and playfulness develops between them."
The push to get dads on board comes from a new Mother Goose focus, a program called Especially for Dads. This workshop trains fathers to develop a nurturing relationship with young children through books, conversation and play. According to the Vermont Center for the Book, children are more likely to thrive – emotionally and academically – if they have a warm, nurturing relationship with their dad, a relationship that encourages reading.
Another new workshop called Beginning with Mother Goose is aimed at teen moms and first-time parents of babies and toddlers. "Whether they are simple nursery rhymes or toddler books, we teach teen mothers how to incorporate reading into every day activities," Gutloff said.
Before these tools can be offered to the public, Gutloff says they need to train more teachers for the workshops. Sally Anderson, executive director of the Vermont Center for the Book, will be on St. Thomas to train volunteers to conduct the Mother Goose sessions. The Beginning with Mother Goose training will take place Tuesday, Sept. 21, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Training for Especially for Dads will be on Wednesday, Sept. 22 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Both sessions will be at St. Andrews Episcopal Church on St. Thomas. Volunteer trainers will receive activity guides, breakfast and lunch. Workshops are free, but space is limited. For more information or to sign up to be a trainer, call the institute at 777-7030.
The V.I. Institute for Teaching and Learning was founded in 1994 by Dr. Linda Creque, former Education commissioner for the Virgin Islands. It is a nonprofit agency funded largely by the United Way of St. Thomas and St. John. The agency also receives financial assistance from grants through the Law Enforcement Planning Commission, and the Feuerzeig Family Fund at the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands. Other programs headed up by the institute are Health Connections, which teaches students how to live healthier lives, and the Chess in Schools program, which will begin this fall.
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