By Nancy Land
Some of the children who come call this ‘train school’, but nobody here knows how to operate a locomotive – even if there are a few trains around. Also, it’s not a ‘school’ in the proper sense of the word, but there is a lot of learning going on.
The “Literacy Express” program for preschoolers is held Tuesday and Wednesday mornings in the second floor rooms of the train station building adjacent to the Hillsborough Public Library. The program is free for children ages 3 and 4 years old and is sponsored by the Hillsborough Public Library Board with the support of the Bennett and Albert County Health Care (BACH) Foundation.
What it's all about...
The Literacy Express is coordinated and led by Nancy Land, B.Ed. with the assistance of Lois Snider. It offers the children a structured program of activities focused on stories, nursery rhymes, songs and movement, finger-plays, crafts and play-time at the various centres set up around the rooms.
One group of children meets for one hour on Tuesday mornings, and a second group meets on Wednesday mornings. There is no charge to parents for this service.
Nancy packs a lot of opportunities for learning into that hour, and organizes the activities around a common idea for that day.
For example, after reading the story Henny Penny to the group, the children then might sing the song about “Five Little Ducks,” identify farm animal sounds using an Ipad app, practice rhyming with picture cards, and make paper bag puppets of barnyard birds. As play is important in so many aspects of children’s learning, ample time is provided afterwards for exploring the classrooms’ resources – some of the children may spend most of their time at the play-dough table, play house in the housekeeping centre, play puzzles, or go to the very popular block centre to build, etc. The goal is to provide a program which immerses children in language activities in an environment rich in opportunities to see, hear and respond.
A little history...
The program, which has met from September to May over the past four and a half years, grew out of the “story-time” which had been offered by the Hillsborough Public Library for a number of years. Nancy had been leading this occasionally in the spring and fall of 2013, but knew, as a former kindergarten teacher at Hillsborough Elementary School, that she could do more to provide specific literacy activities and experiences to help develop children’s oral language and pre-reading skills.
Barb Alcorn, the Library Manager at the time, invited Nancy to make a proposal to the Hillsborough Public Library Board. The Board was immediately supportive, but one potential obstacle was space. Children need room to move around. The Public Library has 440 square feet of space, but naturally, most of that space is taken up by books. This is when the village of Hillsborough stepped up to provide the use of two rooms at the train station.
Everyone on board...
And so the Literacy Express program began to take shape, with the promise of rooms, some interested children and their parents, and story books in abundance from the library. But little children need furniture that fits them, equipment and resources that interest them, and teaching supplies for the program leader to use. This is where other local (and provincial) organizations were willing to help.
All the necessary equipment was supplied with the support of:
- Bennett and Albert County Health Care (BACH) Foundation
- Scotiabank’s Bright Futures program
- Order of the Eastern Star
- Aviva Insurance
- Hillsborough men’s hockey team
- PC Riding Association
- RBC Dominion Securities
- NB Children’s Foundation, plus
- private individuals
And so, the Literacy Express program made its home at the train station in the late fall of 2013. Since its inception, the program has served about 50 children, many over the course of two years. Most of the children who begin the program as three-year-olds come back the next year as four-year-olds, reflecting the value the program holds for them and their parents. There are currently 20 children attending this ‘train school’ year of 2017/18.
To find out more, check out Literacy Express on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Literacy-Express-566999026735229/) or if you are interested in the program for the fall of 2018 (the program is full for 2017-18), call Nancy Land at 734-8804 or call the Hillsborough Public Library at 734-3722.
Nancy Land is a school teacher by profession (concentrating on early childhood education) and taught kindergarten from 1991 to 2001 at Hillsborough Elementary School.