International Literacy Day is celebrated each year on September 8 with the aim to highlight the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies.
Literacy for all – children, youth and adults – is still an unaccomplished goal and an ever moving target. It is estimated that 860 million of the world’s adults (nearly two-thirds of whom are women) do not know how to read or write and that more than 100 million children lack access to education.
The Salvation Army worldwide continues to develop programs and partnerships addressing literacy issues and needs. In Canada, HIPPY – Montreal, began operation in October 2005 and had a very successful first year.
HIPPY (Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters) is a home-based, preschool education program that builds on the bond between parents and children. Supported by easy-to-use activity packets, bi-weekly home visits and group meetings, parents learn how to prepare their children for success in school and beyond.
Developed in Israel in 1969, HIPPY has grown into a world-wide movement. Originally designed to serve the under-educated and to help integrate immigrants (refugees) in Israel, its curriculum continues to be adapted to local programs on five continents.
HIPPY Montreal was conceived in 2002 thanks to the efforts of three organizations. The Salvation Army, the Centre for Literacy and Maison Elizabeth House.
Each partner organization plays a specific role. The Salvation Army provides administrative support, resources and facilities to the program coordinator out of its own offices. Maison Elizabeth House helps recruit English-speaking families and ensures space for group meetings. The Centre for Literacy provides pedagogical support to the coordinator and home visitors and supervises all research and evaluation activities associated with the project.
In 2005 a diverse group of approximately 40 families from Algeria, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, China, India, Iran, Mexico, Russia, and Sri Lanka participated in the program. Home visitors worked in both French and English to help the parents enjoy the HIPPY curriculum with their children. Family group meetings included workshops on a wide range of topics including food and nutrition, parenting skills and child development. HIPPY Montreal held a year-end celebration and graduation ceremony in June to recognize the achievements of the participating parents and children.
Everyone involved with HIPPY Montreal is looking forward to the second year set to begin in October 2006.