From News

The First Acquired Language: Music

Mishael discovering the guitar in his first months

A pair of deep brown eyes stare into mine already so full of love and trust, and although I’m not sure I deserve such love and trust, they continue to gaze into mine and I am speechless.

Let’s rewind one year. Here I am. First time mom with a new born baby boy in my arms. I couldn’t be happier and also more humbled. Being in the child care field for so many years and working mostly with infants I assumed having my own would be a piece of cake. Wrong.

Sure I already knew how to change a diaper and understand baby babble but what do I do with a newborn that, well, really just lays there and looks at me?


I rested my son, Mishael, on the living room floor and crossed my legs next to him with an acoustic guitar. Delicately, I strummed chords and sang softly. He seemed pleasantly content and at peace. The next day I let him rest in the living room again as I played and sung to him. The next day as well as the next, I did the same.

Finally, a smile. Before I would even begin to play, Mishael would grin at the sight of me grasping the guitar from its stand.

And then a coo and a hum. He was not only excited when he caught glimpse of the guitar but he had acquired a unique singing voice.

Next a wave of the arm and a shake of the leg. As Mishael’s excitement grew every time I brought out the guitar, his body began to move and wiggle as well.

Music is a language he identifies with. It provides him a way of expressing himself as his vocabulary grows. It wasn’t long after incorporating music continually throughout the day that his expressions grew into many. His babbling grew into words. His waves became clapping. And his legs began bouncing to the rhythm of a song.


Mishael has developed emotionally, cognitively and physically due to music.

I truly believe that every child can make meaning of the world in their own way through music some way or another. And it doesn’t have to be with an acoustic guitar either. Here is a short list of some places nearby that my son and I love to go every week. They will provide your child with a wonderful start in music and you might just learn a thing or two as well!


Baby Time @ New Westminster Public Library. Fridays at 10:15am (no charge)

Pre-school story time @ New Westminster Public Library. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday at 10:15am (no charge)

Mini Music ages 0-5 @ Music Box. Fridays at 10am and 11am (no charge)

Music Kids Daycare @ Top floor of River Market. Occasional and flexible child care, music focused. Monday-Friday 9am-5pm. (Charges apply)

 -Kimberly Ngugi is co-owner & manager of Music Kids Daycare at the River Market, a new flexible music daycare by Music Box. After completing her Early childhood education certificate and diploma specializing in infant/toddler and special needs care, Kimberly has enjoyed many years of experience teaching children in a variety of settings from daycare, junior kindergarten and pre-school internationally in Kenya. Kimberly is passionate in creating environments for children to make meaning of the world on their own with room to create, imagine and discover. She also has special education in teaching English as a second language and music.  She lives in New Westminster with her husband and 1 year old son.

A Hundred Languages

All children learn, discover and understand in different ways. The way in which one child will understand why leaves are green during summer and fall in autumn, may be completely opposite from another. Being aware that every child learns differently and providing them an atmosphere and environment to explore and make their own theories about life seems crucial to me.


Below is a poem by Loris Malaguzzi, founder of the Reggio approach. A poem that was shared with me in college when studying early childhood education. It completely changed my perspective on children and the environments which they should be surrounded by to make meaning of the world around them.


The child

is made of one hundred.

The child has

A hundred languages

A hundred hands

A hundred thoughts

A hundred ways of thinking

Of playing, of speaking.

A hundred always a hundred

Ways of listening of marveling of loving

A hundred joys

For singing and understanding

A hundred worlds

To discover

A hundred worlds

To invent

A hundred worlds

To dream

The child has

A hundred languages

(and a hundred hundred hundred more)

But they steal ninety-nine.

The school and the culture

Separate the head from the body.

They tell the child;

To think without hands

To do without head

To listen and not to speak

To understand without joy

To love and to marvel

Only at Easter and Christmas

They tell the child:

To discover the world already there

And of the hundred

They steal ninety-nine.

They tell the child:

That work and play

Reality and fantasy

Science and imagination

Sky and earth

Reason and dream

Are things

That do not belong together

And thus they tell the child

That the hundred is not there

The child says: NO WAY the hundred is there–


Loris Malagasy 

Founder of the Reggio Approach

-Kimberly Ngugi is co-owner & manager of Music Kids Daycare at the River Market, a new flexible music daycare by Music Box. After completing her Early childhood education certificate and diploma specializing in infant/toddler and special needs care, Kimberly has enjoyed many years of experience teaching children in a variety of settings from daycare, junior kindergarten and pre-school internationally in Kenya. Kimberly is passionate in creating environments for children to make meaning of the world on their own with room to create, imagine and discover. She also has special education in teaching English as a second language and music.  She lives in New Westminster with her husband and 1 year old son.

Do all children play?

Red elastic. Blue elastic. Green elastic. Yellow elastic. Tiny fingers working diligently to wrap band around band until their labours have produced a brilliant and vibrant coloured ball. Believe it or not, if you wrap enough elastic bands around themselves with a couple polythene bags intertwined, it will create a ball durabUntitled1le enough to kick around as a soccer ball.  A clever skill I learned while living in rural Kenya for three
After working in child care for many years and seeing the endless amount of plastic toys the children had to play with, it made me wonder if play was universal. Could children living in the uttermost poor and rural environments still play like children exposed to plastic toys and IPad’s?

The idea of children living in a slum with mud walls to form a simple home and walking in streets of debris seemed to shout a loud, “NO!” Surely children do not play all over the world. But as I walked through the slums of Kenya interacting with the children there, my opinion began to change.

I found children making use of other’s garbage to create toys. I remember one young girl crouched on the ground biting her lip as she put all her concentration and efforts into tying a filthy string to a polythene bag that had been thrown out. I crouched next to her and asked what she was making.

“A kite,” she replied.

Sure enough, as she finished attaching strings to each side of the bag and a breeze passed by, the kite lifted into the air. With a cheerful giggle, the girl stood up and raced around with her kite.

Do all children play? My heart and mind have been persuaded to say, “yes.”

My son & I taking a moment to explore on one of our walks.

My one-year-old son reminds me of these children every day. Like most of you, I’m sure, we have a toy box in our living room. It’s full of plastic toys, as I like to call them. Rarely do I find him playing with a single toy in it.

Instead he is eager to play with wooden spoons or to open every cupboard in the kitchen and discover a toy box of pots, pans and Tupperware’s.   When we go to the park, I pack the diaper bag full of toys and every time I fail to unpack even one of them as he much prefers to play with the leaves, sticks and rocks. I’m sure many of you can identify.

Real. Authentic. Natural. My son will choose a real adult-like spoon over his small plastic spoon. He will choose to play with a stick over a plastic car. He prefers to watch real fish in a pond than play with his plastic fish that flash and play music.

Do all children play? I’ve determined whether children are exposed to manufactured toys or left to imagine what they can create with the natural items around them, it is an outstanding YES.

After working with children for many years and studying the way they play and learn, I couldn’t be more excited to have just opened Music Kids Daycare at the river market by the New Westminster Quay. Founded with Reggio Emilia philosophies from Italy, children are exposed to real, authentic, natural items.

I believe every child is competent and should be treated so. Every child discovers and understands differently from another and I truly desire to provide an environment that allows a child to make meaning of the world in their own way.

Do all children play? Even in the uttermost poor and rural environments? I have no other word to answer with but “yes.” Let’s replace the plastic with natural, the manufactured with authentic and provide our children with an atmosphere that encourages creativity, imagination and understanding.

Clinton, age 3, discovering that he can still draw a picture in the dirt with a stick even though he lacks paper and felts.
Clinton, age 3, discovering that he can still draw a picture in the dirt with a stick even though he lacks paper and felts.

-Kimberly Ngugi is co-owner & manager of Music Kids Daycare at the River Market, a new flexible music daycare by Music Box. After completing her Early childhood education certificate and diploma specializing in infant/toddler and special needs care, Kimberly has enjoyed many years of experience teaching children in a variety of settings from daycare, junior kindergarten and pre-school internationally in Kenya. Kimberly is passionate in creating environments for children to make meaning of the world on their own with room to create, imagine and discover. She also has special education in teaching English as a second language and music.  She lives in New Westminster with her husband and 1 year old son.

Travelling With Kids

I love to travel, and started my own personal traveling when I was 14 and went on my first solo trip to visit my Grandparents in Arizona. In fact, a luggage set was my 14th birthday present. When I was 21, I began my backpacking career, after being inspired by people I saw sleeping on the deck of a boat on a previous journey along the Alaskan coast line when I was 16. This is the way I wanted to see the world!

I always remember my parents saying that it was good to go traveling when I was young, because once real life started, travel would have to wait. Well, that didn’t sit well with me. I was determined to make traveling a part of my life, and a career, a house, a business and children were not going to stop me!

We live in a world where we are able to connect globally, and yet, often we are reluctant to do that in a real way. It is easy, and safe, to explore the world and its varied people from the comfort and safety of our homes, or in resorts that have all the comforts of home and give us controlled experiences that give us a small glimpse into another person’s life. Don’t get me wrong. I recognize the need for a relaxing holiday where no one has to worry about the day-to-day things, and the experience is hassle free. We all need this type of TLC from time to time.

Traveling without the safety net of a pre-arranged tour, and carrying your home on your back leads to a very different experience, especially when doing that with children in tow. Our family decided to travel in this way for most of our journeys. It wasn’t always easy. We typically arrived with a guidebook in hand and no reservations. We did not have an itinerary, just some locations in mind, and a flight home at the end.

Why would we choose this way of traveling? Well, because our goal was to explore, and follow the paths that we encountered along the way. We wanted our children to experience people and places as they were presented to us.   We wanted them to learn about cultures of the world through direct experience. We decided to use exploring the world as a canvas for learning about life, both the way other groups live their lives, and as a way to make decisions, form opinions, and recognize similarities and differences between the global community.

Travel is often seen as a way to bring a family together. This was true of our method as well. We each had our own roles and responsibilities. Each for their own packing and carrying of clothes and personal items. When we would arrive in a new location, I would have some possible places marked in our guidebook, and we would split up – two staying with the packs, and two checking out lodgings for the night. When we started exploring the following day, we had a list of questions that could be answered by tourist information, or a local such as a hostel worker or someone in a restaurant. When our kids were young, most of the decision making was left to the adults, but as they got older, they were increasingly involved in transit and route planning, navigating to locations we used in a particular city, finding a place to stay, and in the information gathering process. By our last trip, they would go to find our room, and find out important information independently. Of course, there were times when this was problematic. The first trip that we allowed the boys to pack for themselves resulted in a huge rope and grappling hook, shoes that were falling apart, zap straps, bungee cords and duct tape. Well, the rope was sent home, but the duct tape and zap straps saved our feet and clothing many times, and the bungee cords were used daily for attaching luggage to the tops of taxis so that we could stay together in a car rather than being split up.

If you have the chance to travel with children, it is so important to be flexible, and to add fun. I see traveling as a learning experience, but this does not always mean learning facts and dates, going to museums and taking tours. It means finding places to climb and explore, renting bikes, going bowling with the locals, renting ATVs and going zip lining. When we started, there were no cell phones or personal computers, so reading a family novel, playing cards and dice games, drawing and seeing movies in a theatre were our entertainment. Part of the beauty of this simplicity is that it removes distractions. It forces a family to work together as a unit, and siblings to rely on each other as friends. It requires problem solving, collaboration, and compromise.

Traveling teaches life skills that are really survival skills no matter what setting one finds oneself in.   Recognizing dangerous situations, trusting your instincts, goal setting, facing challenges, developing tolerance, accepting differences, talking to strangers safely…these are invaluable lessons. I feel confident in the abilities of both my boys when they venture into the world, whether that be living independently in the lower mainland or living abroad.

From an educational point of view, there are a wealth of learning opportunities. Traveling should never be seen as ‘missing school’, it simply provides direct experiences that add to continually building our understanding of life and the world.

When exploring any place, be it at home or abroad, there are many questions to explore.

  • What plants and animals live here?
  • What are the homes made from?
  • What does the architecture tell us about the local history and resource use?
  • How do people get their food and what do they eat?
  • How do families live, work and play?
  • How do the locals travel and what do they pay? Are there differences between locals and tourists? (female only cars on the trains in Egypt, different fares for locals)
  • What does the night sky look like?
  • What are the environmental and social issues?
  • What are the dangers in a particular environment? (pick pocketing, drug abuse, poverty, hunger, street safety)
  • What writing, number and money system is used?
  • What is the geography, and how has it changed? ( Erosion, volcanoes, canyons, deforestation, salinization, rock formation)
  • How has history shaped a place and it’s people?
  • How do nature and man interact?


When learning on the road, there is no need to formalize this learning. It can simply be used to start discussions, raise questions, and as the building blocks of memories and connections. I do work with families who travel through my work at Hume Park Homelearners who choose to formalize learning. Younger students may simply keep a travel journal as a scrapbook, adding photos, artifacts, collections, drawings and stories. Older students often use a computer, and create projects related to science and social studies concepts. They sometimes also read a historical fiction novel that takes place in the area of the world they are exploring.

Things to think about when on the road with kids:

  • Pack lightly- only bring clothes you like wearing, but are not too attached to. You will wear the same things day to day, so bring things you can part with, and buy something new when you need a change. Your old clothes may be a gift for someone else.
  • Pack toiletries in waterproof bags which can go into the shower if needed when in hostel situations
  • Use a money belt or small purse that attaches to your body and can be worn under clothing when needed. Also, as adults, split up money, cards and passports. Keep a photocopy of documents in a safe place. This is for safety, but also, in some places, photocopies are expected even to buy a train ticket.
  • Bring a separate day pack to carry water, snacks, cards, cameras, an extra layer of clothing, suntan lotion and bug spray
  • Bring an extra stuff sac or fold up shopping bag for dirty laundry, and later to bring gifts home
  • Buy things that will entertain and be a piece of home. For example, once we bought a small guitar for hours of musical exploration, another time we bought cheap skateboards which kept the lids active, where a point of interest with locals, and also helped with transporting packs and rushing to catch a boat
  • Don’t be discouraged by ‘mistakes’- often these detours are gifts in disguise. Stay calm, don’t rush, and follow your instincts.
  • Bring journals for yourselves and the kids. These can be a form of documentation, reflection, but also, give kids permission to use them as they wish- it might be drawings, collections, paper for keeping score of a card game, stories, and maybe it serves as a travel log, but not always
  • Bring a book just for information, and that has rip out pages
  • String for laundry, as well as a small amount of detergent or a multi-purpose bar of soap to do underwear and socks in your rooms if staying more than a day
  • Pack a few cheap novels- most hostels have book exchange shelves so having some trades is a great idea. Also, look for family read aloud novels that take place in the country you are visiting
  • Use a guide book- second hand is fine and can be abused if needed. You can mark places on maps, highlight information, rip out a map if needed, and serves as a souvenir of the trip later on. There are many on line options that can be useful when traveling, but a book is accessible on the bus or train and can be put in the daypack.
  • A personal child’s camera of some form to capture images and memories on a personal level


Wherever your travels take you, remember to live in the moment and enjoy the journey!






Aquatic adventures at the Vancouver Aquarium

Our relationship with the Vancouver Aquarium began with the purchase of a stuffed baby Emperor penguin from the shop at the Vancouver International Airport.  In addition to “Baby Sister”, so named for Pingu’s baby sister, I bought Raffi’s “Baby Beluga” book and infant Lucan and I enjoyed the sing along story of “the little white whale on the go”. Lucan was particularly taken with a certain horned whale because it reminded him of unicorns. In fact, as we later discovered, Narwhals were hunted almost to extinction for their horns and are threatened today because of increasing noise and pollution in the water.

As members of the Vancouver Aquarium we have been fascinated and humbled in observing all the majestic creatures that reside there, many of them rescued wildlife that sustained permanent injuries and who can no longer live in the wild.

Beauty and wonder

On every visit I tell Lucan to lead the way and he and I enter a world of incredible beauty and wonder. Watching the jelly fish bobbing around and then finding the tank with the sea turtles, sharks and rays, makes you think you’re in the movie “Finding Nemo”. The hot and humid rainforest of the Amazon exhibit lets you come face to face with exotic birds, new species of rays and a gigantic and mysterious anaconda. The level of detail about the various frogs, and risks to their existence (and every other creatures’) is clearly laid out and frankly, unnerving. Humans are supposed to be caretakers of the earth and yet hundreds of species are now extinct and hundreds more are on the brink.

Marine research and rescue facilities like the Vancouver Aquarium are important places of learning and connection, to create empathy for all animals. It is here, in a place that clearly demonstrates the gentleness, the soulfulness and the gloriousness of marine life, that we humans can learn from the mistakes of the past, and determine to do better for the surviving creatures, and for the planet herself.

“When people see whales, we are struck in some place within ourselves that I don’t think we even understand…and I think the ingredients of that feeling are humility, you feel small next to the presence of what you are seeing and you understand that you are not in control.” Jackie Hildebrand, humpback whale researcher, marine education and research society, aka, The Marine Detective.

Majestic animals

Lucan and I don’t watch the marine shows from the surface, preferring to view these majestic animals underwater. There is Helen, the elegant and incredibly fast dolphin, who years ago, lost part of her fins from fishing nets and therefore can’t be released back to the wild, as she won’t survive. And the precocious false killer whale Chester, who was found in 2014 off the BC Coast at only a month old. False Killer Whales are not native to BC, they like a much warmer climate, and marine biologists don’t know how baby Chester ended up lost on our shore, or where his pod went. Being orphaned so young Chester has no survival skills for the wild so came to share Helen’s home and she teaches him how to be a dolphin. We love to watch Chester swim by us with his big grin and curious and mischievous eyes.

Of course there are belugas at the aquarium, Aurora and Quinao, and we enjoy watching them cavort around. They’ve recently been joined by two habour porpoises named Jack and Daisy. They all love to play to the crowd above and below the water’s surface.
Inspired by his visits to the Vancouver Aquarium Lucan selected a book about whales on his recent trip to the school library. It’s a fascinating read revealing that whales have existed for 55 million years and that the blue whale is much larger than any dinosaur. You can tell the type of whale by the way the water squirts out of it’s spout.  Also, sperm whales can hold their breath and stay under water for up to 2 hours and belugas are known as the canaries of the sea because they make chirping sounds like the bird.

Educational play

A few months ago the Vancouver Aquarium added an exciting new exhibit – a rays touch pool.  It is a thrill to put your hand into the warm sea water and wait for a curious ray to swim over and check you out.  Rays are such elegant and intriguing creatures as they glide through the water, they seem as curious about us as we are about them.

FullSizeRender 178
Patience is required at the Rays Touch Pool, but it’s worth the wait. 🙂

On every visit we spend lots of time at Clown Fish Cove, a play area for children where they can touch Star Fish and Sea Cucumbers, and pretend to rescue injured marine animals on the toy boat and transfer them to the marine “hospital” complete

with scales, x ray machines and food dispensers.

IMG_1554 2
Lucan and friends – future marine biologists 🙂

Aside from membership, there are various ways to support the research and rescue efforts of the Vancouver Aquarium including symbolic adoptions, which make great christmas gifts, shore line clean up and hosting your child’s birthday party there – what an incredible educational experience for your guests.

So, this summer, take the plunge into the cool (literally and figuratively) Vancouver Aquarium, and come face to face with some of the most amazing creatures you will ever see. This aquatic adventure is both stimulating and inspiring and you and your kids will remember the experience for a long, long time.

Tips on Toddlers and Sleep

You can lead a toddler to bed, but you can’t make her sleep. Oh sure, there are things you might be doing that could make lulling your sweetie to sleep more difficult, and the internet is full of tips and tricks that help (sometimes) ease a sleepy child to accept that it is indeed time to rest. But too often, parents and children become locked in a battle of wills over sleep. I know, because it happened to me. With all three kids.

My kids are 8, 6 and two. All three of them had sleep issues. And the issues were different for all three. Now that my older two are through the toddler years, I have concluded:

  • Each child has a natural sleep/wake rhythm. Minor adjustments are possible, but wholesale change won’t happen without many, many tears (both yours and theirs)
  • Toddler tantrums about sleep are to be expected
  • Naps are never guaranteed and may expire without notice
  • The only magic solutions to sleep struggles are Love and Time

Before my first child was born, I read practically every baby and toddler parenting book in the New West library (and a few more off Amazon) to get myself ready for this Mom thing, paying particular care to the advice on sleep. Unfortunately for me, my son was unfamiliar with the ‘expert’ recommendations. I was doing all the ‘right’ things, but my son still slept all wrong.

In retrospect, being so concerned about being a good parent led me to behave rather foolishly at times. I was in tears more times than I care to admit over my inability to make him sleep. Then I had two more kids, and eventually realized most of my earlier struggles were pointless. Learning each child’s rhythms and developing a daily routine that works with their natural rest and active times was far easier and more effective than imposing a routine I read about in some book.

For example, my first child has always been an early riser. I tried everything possible to get him to sleep later, including blackout shades, later bedtimes, and even teaching him to read a clock and forbidding him to get out of bed before 6am. Eventually, I realized nothing silenced his inner alarm clock, and I began enforcing an early bedtime and coaching him on what to do in the morning when he woke up. Little by little, he learned how to take care of himself in the morning, starting with identifying some toys to play quietly with, and eventually how to make his own breakfast and get dressed. By the time he was in kindergarten, he was dressed and ready to go to school before I was even out of bed. My youngest daughter takes after her brother, and now my son feeds her breakfast before I’m out of bed too.

My middle daughter, on the other hand, isn’t ready to go to sleep until later. She has billions of questions to ask at bedtime. Literally, billions. She has always been a bedtime procrastinator, and almost always sleeps in. My little night owl’s brain is very busy at bedtime, and it takes her a long time to get going in the morning. I have to wake her up for school and coach her through the morning routine while she’s bleary-eyed and grumpy. For her too, the template was set as a toddler. While my son was already mostly asleep, she was asking for endless glasses of water, kicking off her covers and demanding to be tucked in again, and then claiming to need to go potty. My answer to this has been to tuck in her siblings first, who both drop off to sleep quickly, and then plan to spend a little time talking about a few of the concerns swirling around my daughter’s mind. She is gratified to have a little one-on-one attention, and I am happier when I plan to spend a sweet little moment with her before bed than when she acts out to demand my attention.

As for my youngest, she has been trying her hardest to give up naps since turning two. I staved it off for a while, by strategically timing walks with the stroller for the time of day when she was at her sleepiest (scoring a double benefit of some exercise for me and rest for her) and more recently, simply declaring that if she doesn’t nap she has to go to bed right after dinner to ensure she gets enough sleep. She understands the bargain, and on days when she does nap, she gets to stay up until her siblings go to bed. Like her brother, her wakeup time seems innate, and does not change when she goes to bed later.

With all three children, tantrums about sleep were a signal that I needed to adjust our family routine from what worked for the kids as babies. The testing of the toddler years is related to children’s discovery of themselves as individuals, and a growing need to test their ability to choose and do for themselves. It is also a wake-up call to parents to see children as separate people with likes and dislikes that may be different from ours. I don’t see the testing around sleep as any different. The limits and routines we set need to change as kids get older, and conflict is one of the signals that triggers change.

The biggest lesson I have learned about sleep is that many things can disrupt it, and the best fix for it is to stay connected with your kids and give yourselves time to figure out the routines that work best for you.

The reasons behind sleep refusal and other difficult bedtime behaviours need to be resolved before the problem can be solved. Developmental changes, nightmares, anxieties and fears, potty training, hunger, thirst, and many other factors can disrupt your sleep routine. I find it helps to remind myself that not sleeping is an effect, not a cause. Some causes of sleeplessness are possible to troubleshoot, but others are resolved only with love and time.

 Written by Briana Tomkinson


Fostering Early Literacy Skills in Our Children

As a primary teacher, I am often asked by parents about the best ways to support their child’s early literacy skills.

It is interesting; however, that a great deal of your child’s literacy development happens before they enter the school system. Parents and caregivers play an integral role in developing and promoting a child’s language skills. In fact, the first five years of your child’s life creates the literacy foundation upon which teachers and the education system continue to build.

So, what are early literacy skills?

  • Oral language development is a major component of literacy skills. From speaking one word at a time, to phrases, and then to full sentences, these are the skills that will be developed and built upon once your child enters the school system.
  • Developing a positive attitude and basic knowledge about reading, writing, listening and speaking. Looking at books, figuring out how print works and looking at pictures are all important early literacy skills.

Early literacy skills can be fostered and developed anywhere including the home, daycares, preschools and in the community.

The great city of New Westminster offers many opportunities and venues to help you and your child to begin their exciting journey learning to read.

Around the City

The New Westminster Public Library (NWPL)

  • Tee1Story time is offered by the NWPL for caregivers with babies (ages 0-23 months), caregivers with preschool aged children (ages 2 – 5 years), and for families (all ages)
  • Activities may include singing songs, listening to stories and rhymes
  • Tee2NWPL also has concept books that you can borrow. Examples of concept books are alphabet books and numeracy books.
  • For more information about what the New Westminster Public Library has to offer, the days and times of the story time for you, pop in to the NWPL or check out their website.



Strong Start Early Learning Centres

The schedule for the Strong Start Early Learning Centre at Richard McBride Elementary School.
The schedule for the Strong Start Early Learning Centre at Richard McBride Elementary School.
  • Conveniently located at three elementary school sites in the city of New Westminster
  • Drop in program for caregivers with their children ages 0 – 5 years old
  • Led by an early childhood educator
  • Provides caregivers and children with the time and opportunity to socialize and make connections with others in the community

Activities for children may include:

  • Free play time to build oral language, develop social skills, and promote imagination
  • Baking
  • Story time to look at books and answer directed questions
  • Check out the link for more information.
Some of the materials that the children can experience.
Some of the materials that the children can experience at Strong Start.
Some of the materials that the children can experience at Strong Start.
Some of the materials that the children can experience at Strong Start.


New Westminster Family Place

  • Tee6Offers drop in programs for parents with children ages 0-5 years old

Activities for children may include:

  • Free play time to develop imagination, creativity, and to develop oral and social skills
  • Story time activity
  • Songs and rhymes
  • Once a month, a specialist is invited to give a parent education talk during the drop in time
  • Offers resources and referrals for parents seeking information/support/help
  • Offers a toy lending library for parents

For more information, please see their website.

Purpose Society

  • Tee7Offers drop in programs for parents and children. Different programs are on different days such as Family Circle (3 -5 years old), Pitter Patter Circle Time (0-30 months), and Teeter Tots (0 – 30 months).
  • Activities may include:
    • Free play time
    • Circle time
    • Crafts
    • Snacks
    • Parent information session

For more information of the programs and details, please visit their website.


I love spending time with my children. Activities at home can be done in the comforts of your pajamas for those lazy weekend mornings or spread out during the day.


These are some of the activities that promote early literacy skills in our children.

  1. Read with your child. Anything and everything from books to groceries list to game directions. READ!
  2. Puzzles are so fun to do. There is such a variety out there. Beginner puzzles are perfect for little ones and for those up to the challenge, 3D puzzles are complex and satisfying to complete. Puzzles build concentration, attention to details, hand eye co-ordination, and the development of the pincer grip (the fingers needed to hold a pencil effortlessly!
  3. Arts and Craft are super fun to do! Arts and crafts projects foster listening skills, following directions, and fine motor development.
  4. Printing for everyday events is a super way to help your child develop skills sounding out and fine motor development. Examples of things your child can print are invitations to birthday parties, wish lists, or thank you cards.

As you can see, whether at home or around the city, there are so many things that can be done to help foster and develop your child’s early literacy skills.

Written by: Sandra Tee, primary teacher

Edited and Revised by: Lindsay DeLair, teacher librarian

With thanks from:

  • Liz Hunter: New Westminster Public Library
  • Marian Parish: Head Strong Start Facilitator, SD40
  • Staff at the Purpose Society and the New Westminster Family Place


Home Reading Success

Teachers often set up Home Reading programs to help support their students’ learning and to encourage parents to participate in their child’s literacy.   Your child may be already talking about their reading experiences at school and using language that is unfamiliar to you such as predicting, accessing prior knowledge, and making connections, terms teachers use frequently during the reading process. What do these words mean and how can you, as a parent and caregiver, help your child in the reading process?

Although sounding out words is an important skill, good reading goes far beyond that. There are many other components to teaching reading. A strong reader will have excellent decoding skills and comprehension.

I will explain some of the processes your child may be doing in language arts during a reading activity and why it is important to the reading process.

Tee12Accessing prior knowledge

  • Students are often asked about what they already know about the title and picture of the book before beginning to read. This helps the students recall facts that they already know before reading so that meaning can be added upon. It is just like us getting all the materials ready before cooking. It prepares us.


  • Sometimes, at the end of a page or chapter, the reader is left wondering what will happen next. Predicting is using clues in what already been read to try to find out what will happen next. As long as it is a possible event based on what has already occurred in the story, there is no right or wrong answers to predictions. I love asking students “what do you think will happen next?” It gives them the chance to use their imagination. It also allows me to see how well they have understood the story so far and to praise their creativity and imagination and tell them that they could be authors as their ideas could have worked in the story too.
  • Predictions, especially with younger students, can also be made from the title and cover of the book as well as the illustrations. This strategy also helps students make good choices when choosing books independently.

Tee14Making Connections

  • Students are often asked to link what they are reading to something that they have already read or experienced. These connections help students to personalize the text and to remember what they have just read. For example, think about how we, as adults, explain to someone else how to find a place. We connect the place to another point of reference (the world) so that meaning is made. “The pool is right beside the community centre.”

Big Idea or Author’s Message

  • After reading a book, students are sometimes asked to find the big idea or the author’s message of the story. This is quite a complex task for young students as it is usually not stated in the book itself. Finding the big idea of the story asks your child to think critically to figure out what was the point of the book and why it is important.

Tee15As you can see, all of these processes help your child deepen his/her understanding of what is being read. Readers need to anchor what they are reading to what they already know in order for new facts to be remembered.

I cannot begin to express my gratitude to all the parents and caregivers out there. You are truly your child’s first and lifelong teacher. It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child. The same hold true for educating a child.

Written by Sandra Tee, primary teacher

Edited and Revised by Lindsay DeLair, teacher librarian

Clip art taken with permission from

Welcoming Refugees to Our Home

Last November I made a difficult decision. I left a high-pressure and rewarding job because I couldn’t put in the time required and still adequately parent my three young kids. My plan was to spend the next month recovering, reflecting and enjoying rich, quality time with my kids. I thought I’d do a deep clean and make our household less chaotic.

So it doesn’t make a lot of sense that my husband and I then chose to invite a family of six to share our home for a few months.

But we did. And I’d like to tell you why.

Years ago I listened to a radio show about a refugee family in the Middle East. No, I don’t remember which country – that’s how much I know about world affairs. The mother’s voice moved me to tears from across the world. She didn’t feel safe and she couldn’t keep her children safe. I thought about what it would be like to be that mother. How easily that could be me. How her children are as precious to her as mine are to me.

I decided that day that I wanted to do something, some small thing, to help refugees displaced from their homes. In fact it was less of a want, and more a feeling that this is something I need to do as a human being with extraordinary privilege on the planet.

Sponsoring a refugee family never seemed to be in the cards of our family’s household budget. That commitment – which others in New Westminster are making – calls on the sponsoring group to cover a family’s costs for a whole year. But when we saw a call online for temporary housing, my husband and I decided to pitch in. We looked around at our messy, chaotic home. It hasn’t been baby-proofed for years. We’re close to the line of eligibility for that hoarding TV show. Our children, arguably, could use a lot more attention from two distractable working parents.

But like having your first child, we decided the time is probably never perfect to add six people to your home.

The Edom family has been living with us now for two months. And no, we weren’t ready. Yes, the kids complained after the initial honeymoon wore off. The baby knocks their toys over. The boys had to be banished from my kids’ bedrooms after a series of disasters. The smell of spicy goat meat cooking took some getting used to. It’s remarkably challenging to go ice skating with seven kids and one adult who can’t skate.

A selection of the shoes and boots that come along with this many little ones in the house!
A selection of the shoes and boots that come along with this many little ones in the house!

But it’s been an unforgettable experience that we don’t regret for a moment.

We got to watch four young children experience snow, snowballs and sledding for the first time.

We are learning about life for regular folks in an African country – much more than we learned during an expensive family vacation to South Africa.

We learn anew every day that children are all the same. They don’t like seeds in their bread. They want to be pushed on the swings. They don’t like having their hair done. They like any playground, anywhere.

We are walking beside a courageous, resilient family as they face the reality that they can’t return to their home, their families, and their business. That this cold, rainy place is their new home. This family gets up every day and takes the next step whether large or small – applying for refugee status, getting the kids into school, figuring out the Compass Card, getting immunizations. Every day a challenge that involves a stack of paperwork they find confounding.

A couple of weeks ago was a turning point. One of my kids climbed over the wooden baby gate to the Edom’s space in our loft to get some time with baby Mandela. It was the first time my kids had gone to their “home”. The other kids soon followed, and a sleepover was held in the loft. It was a small but important power shift.

Yesterday’s triumph: Dad Emeka made a Nigerian dish that my kids adore and is their new favourite meal (indomie – noodles with egg). When we started this adventure, I never thought they’d be asking for Nigerian food by name. Who knows what other surprises are ahead for us.

Eating endomie for the first time. Yum!
Eating endomie for the first time. Yum!

If you have felt the urge to walk beside refugees, but talked yourself out of it because you don’t really have the room, or it’s a little too disruptive, I urge you to take another look.Like having a child, you’re never ready. The Edom family also wasn’t ready to leave their life behind. But they’re here, they’re doing it, and they could really use a hand.


Written by Maya Russell