Program Spotlight: Love 2 Learn

Love 2 Learn is a family literacy program that was developed in Nelson, BC. The program brings children 3-5, parents and caregivers, and schools together so that families become comfortable in the school environment, and so parents and caregivers further encourage their child’s learning. 

When you think of a “family literacy program,” do you automatically think of a program for kids?

Some of us do.  However, a quality family literacy program should be more: it should be intergenerational, responsive to community needs, and fully inclusive to diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

As well, recent research conducted in the US suggests that when parents are more involved and more engaged, children tend to do better academically and socially; parent-child interaction makes a strong contribution to literacy and language development.

Love 2 Learn is a family literacy program that has been adopted in many communities in the Columbia Basin in southeastern British Columbia. The program has become an important community pillar for hundreds of families since its inception in 1999.

“The neat thing about Love 2 Learn is that it looks like a fun kid’s program,” says Melissa Woodward, one of two program facilitators based in Nelson, BC. “But, it’s really for parents and caregivers to encourage their children’s success in school, and later in life.”

Joan Exley, program coordinator, was instrumental in launching the program 16 years ago.

“It’s about the adults in the room. We started the program with a desire to help parents support their children’s learning, and to build on the foundational belief that a parent is a child’s first and most important teacher,” she remembers. “Over time, we have added components like Ideas 2 Go [suggesting weekly home activities] and Give it a Glance [collective sharing of ideas] with the goal of having skills and activities transfer to the home environment.”

Love 2 Learn began as a partnership with schools in Nelson in order to encourage school readiness and to allow families to get to know their school.  Since then, it has been incorporated into more Kootenay communities, and after presentations in 2015 by Joan at three conferences across BC, interest has been increasing for implementing Love 2 Learn across the province.

In the Kootenays, Love 2 Learn families get together in their local school, or in another available location in the community, once a week for eight weeks. Love 2 Learn is offered three times a year – fall, winter and spring. Participants share rhymes, stories songs and healthy snacks. They make simple materials into “learning toys” by creating felt board stories, modelling-clay art and book crafts.

The program is not limited to parents and children.  Grandparents, relatives, and caregivers are welcome to attend the sessions to encourage further benefits such as inspiring lifelong learning and creating bonds within the communities around them.

Love 2 Learn is constantly evolving. Both Nelson facilitators are involved in ESL work and the program has been tailored to be inclusive of new Canadians to reflect the increasingly diverse region.

“The program is a nice way to connect with ESL and immigrant families,” Joan notes. “We adjust the program to meet the needs of participants, to meet different demands, including age, gender and language development.”

The program is guided by a Love 2 Learn manual used by facilitators and is also reviewed and evaluated each year based on participant feedback. “We hear about new trends, parenting issues, sleep issues – even pencil-grip issues,” Joan says. “We’re very flexible to the group in each location. It’s how we do our work – create, consult, reflect, improve, reflect.”

Facilitators have noticed common themes of success when they receive feedback. Many families are thankful for being in a program with educational value for both adults and children. One standout benefit is that many families no longer feel isolated.

“[Love 2 Learn] has been an amazing program for our family since moving to the Nelson area a year ago,” writes Heather, a parent with two children in the program. “I think that it has a great structure and allows the kids to interact and develop the needed social skills for life.”

Additionally, the connections made in the program go beyond learning and education. Parents appreciate the shared experiences and connections they make to other families and the ongoing social support.

“I find that parents connect with each other – inside the room, in the playground outside – and I see them exchanging phone numbers and creating supportive friendships,” says Melissa.

Others appreciate the access to materials and resources that they can take home with them.

“We work with families who may have members with special needs, live in poverty, or have had recent traumatic events in their lives,” she continues. “I try to connect families in crisis, talk to each family individually, and if needed, refer them to other agencies.

Through a strong personal concern for participants’ well-being, facilitators are able to offer families an immense amount of help through the program. Unsurprisingly, each community group thrives.

“Most important is how the program elevates self-esteem – especially in parents,” Melissa continues. “Love 2 Learn gives both parents and children ideas for preparing for school. I see great value in this as a former teacher. If self-esteem rises, it really creates essential skills to help kids become successful. For children to be successful, they really need to have their parents behind them.”

Love to Learn is run by the Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy (CBAL).  For more information, or to bring Love 2 Learn to your own community, contact Joan Exley by email. You can also find the Program Manual to start your own sessions in our E-store or borrow it from the Decoda Literacy Library.


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