Low literacy is an important issue in Canada and is deeply rooted in early childhood. The Canadian Pediatric Society states that “promoting literacy is a key part of practicing preventive medicine”, hence emphasizing how low literacy can influence health outcomes both directly and indirectly. Primary care providers are ideally situated to promote childhood literacy due to their early and frequent contact with families.
The Fraser Health Burnaby New Canadian Clinic (BNCC) and the Global Family Care Clinic (GFCC) provide comprehensive primary health care, support and advocacy for refugees living in Burnaby, New Westminster and Tri-Cities. Most of the patients come from conflict-stricken countries all over the globe including Syria, Iran, Iraq, and Eritrea. Almost 70% arrive with low proficiency in English and require an interpreter during their appointments. Between the two clinics, the family physicians and nurse practitioners see about 1000 well-child visits annually. These visits provide a valuable opportunity for health promotion, parent education, and provide an ideal setting to promote literacy for newcomer families.
In August 2019, the clinic began to implement a literacy intervention into well-child visits. This intervention includes an assessment of literacy, demonstration of reading, and gifting a new age-appropriate book at every visit. The intervention is based on successful models in Montreal and the Reach Out and Read program in the United States, which have shown to result in parents being more likely to read with their children and higher language scores in preschoolers, among other benefits. With the Raise-a-Reader grant and support from the Tommy Douglas Branch of the Burnaby Public Library, the team at the clinic was able to purchase nearly new 300 books from First Book Canada and United Library Services to gift to newcomer infants and children attending the clinic.
Raise a Reader funds come from the Raise-a-Reader Foundation itself, the Ministry of Education, and Decoda Literacy Solutions. Please get in touch with Literacy Now if you want more information on the funds or other family literacy projects. You can donate here to contribute to great projects like the Childhood Literacy Intervention at the Global Family Care and Burnaby New Canadian Clinic or other initiatives that foster community literacy in Burnaby!
Picture: Dr. Susan Nouch, Ranjit Lehal NP and Jennifer Woo NP at the Global Family Care Clinic in Burnaby received new books in English, Arabic, Farsi, and Spanish to gift to newcomer children who attend the refugee clinic for their medical appointments.