Get Set Learn uses a dialogic process that allows participants who have limited reading capabilities a chance to be successful. The facilitator reads or has volunteers read small sections of the text and then everyone is encouraged to discuss and share their knowledge and experience with the group (Suda, 2001). Most information that is in written form is read aloud to all participants before having them read it on their own. Participants are encouraged to ask for assistance if needed.
Another component of Get Set Learn is homework for the child and parent to work on together. This allows for sharing the fun of learning at home. It also strengthens the skills learned in class by having the family practice the learning skills at home. The homework ranges from doing a craft together to having the parent work with the child on his/her number book. When parents model positive attitudes toward learning, when they read with their child and provide opportunities for learning in daily life, they are setting the stage for essential child brain development and future success in school (Jay, 2003).
Because the program promotes parents as their child’s first and most important teachers, parents discover new ideas for strengthening and enhancing their child’s math, reading, writing, and speaking skills as well as their own. Additionally, they learn many fun ways to make everyday tasks more literacy and math-rich. They learn that they are not only their child’s favourite toy but also that there are many benefits to playing with their children. “Low literacy often appears as a cycle within families. Since the parents don’t read and write well, they don’t carry out the kinds of activities with their young children that foster reading and writing. They don’t have a model passed down by their own parents for building literacy skills” (Paul, 2002 ). Even parents with low literacy skills can be shown ways to encourage reading, writing, and math in their own children. Get Set Learn provides many ways for parents to incorporate these activities into their daily lives.
At Project READ, our specific target group for GSL is welfare parents. We target this clientele because almost one-third of working age Canadians at the lowest levels of literacy have household incomes of less than $15,000 per year (Project READ, 2003). “The lower one’s socioeconomic status, the lower the rate of participation in any type of formal learning activity” (Statistics Canada, 1997). This clearly demonstrates that the adults who need to participate in literacy programs are not accessing the programs. With GSL, we attempt to make it as easy as possible for OW clients to access the programs.
Finally, a family literacy approach recognizes the interconnectedness of literacy with other issues affecting families and it encourages cross-community collaborations that build on existing programs. GSL programs are offered in places where families already gather such as community centres, Early Years Centres, and housing units.