HIPPY Plus helps parents' literacy

May 04, 2006, volume 36, no. 1
By Christine Hearn

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Low-income parents in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and Strathcona neighbourhoods will have new opportunities thanks to collaboration between SFU's community education program and the Home Instruction Program for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY).

The pilot project, HIPPY Plus, began in February at Britannia community services centre. It is an outgrowth of HIPPY, in which at-risk preschoolers are prepared for elementary school through an integrated program involving parents and home visitors who help the parents help their children.

SFU continuing studies community education program director Debbie Bell says the HIPPY program on its own increases parental literacy because the parents find themselves reading things over and over to their children and gain literacy skills through that experience.

“We realized that this was a teachable moment and that we could help some of these parents at just the right time, so it could become more than parents teaching children,” Bell explains. “We found that people who weren't reading, started to read and changed their perspective from ‘I don't read' to ‘I do read.' ”

With money from the National Literacy Secretariat, a coordinator with a literacy background was hired and HIPPY Plus was under way. The cost is estimated at $420,000 over three years and Bell says funding so far has been secured for the first two years.

Bell says the program will not follow a traditional literacy approach, but will be highly integrated so participants will learn practical applications for literacy including  how to start small businesses.

The HIPPY Plus program will also hire a case worker who will support parents in the program for up to three or four years in securing employment training and carrying out job search strategies.

Bell says HIPPY Plus was initiated at Britannia because the home visitors there are experienced and are ready to take on new challenges.

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