Community support is key for a program that encourages reading and provides other health tips and resources for young children in northeast Saskatchewan.
A book bag that includes a book and several other items is being distributed through child health clinics operated by the Saskatchewan Health Authority’s public health units in the northeast area, along with community health services at Shoal Lake, Red Earth and Cumberland House First Nations. The book bag offers developmentally appropriate items for caregivers to use with their toddlers.
The book bag is provided at the 18-month Child Health Clinics. Parents have responded well, and report finding the resources very useful.
Candice Hanson, Public Health Nurse, helps Charlotte and her mother Danella Moyen explore the contents of the book bag presented at an 18-month Child Health Clinic. The book bags contain a variety of items to support early childhood development.
“My daughter loves books so we are always thrilled to receive new reading materials,” said Danella Moyen, after she and her daughter Charlotte received the book bag.
In addition to an infant-appropriate board book, the book bag contains several other items that promote play and health. This includes an inflatable ball and an activity sheet for play ideas, a small toothbrush with Lift the Lip information to identify tooth decay, a Tips and Tools for Parents of Toddlers booklet, Best Start brochure that includes age-appropriate developmental screening and information, and a Growth Wall Chart from the Saskatchewan Prevention Institute. There are also items that promote management of screen time, influenza immunization, and contact information for the Northeast Early Intervention Program. All of these items were packed into a reusable bag that was donated by local businesses
“I also think the toothbrush and Lift the Lip brochure are great items to include in the bag,” Moyen said. “The items look useful and playful. We are excited to try them out!”
The book bag is one initiative of the 0-3 Taskforce, a partnership of organizations focused on early year’s education and support. The group includes several Saskatchewan Health Authority programs in the northeast, including public health nursing, public health nutrition, primary health care, and speech language pathology. Other partners in the program include the Ministry of Social Services, the Northeast School Division, Prince Albert Grand Council, KidsFirst Regional, KidsFirst Nipawin, North East Early Childhood Intervention Program, Northeast Day Directors, and Early Learning and Childcare Program.
“We are thankful to all health authority staff, community agencies and businesses who helped or who have helped in previous years with the 18-month book bags,” said Kathleen Copeland, Public Health Nutritionist in Melfort. “The 18-month book bag project is a success because of the collaborative efforts of previous and current staff, agencies and businesses who have worked hard to keep this great initiative going.”
Copeland says that the group’s contributions include administering the project, ordering and donating supplies, writing funding grants, collecting donations from businesses as well as providing their expertise to seek and/or develop age appropriate information and resources for parents of toddlers.
Melfort Girl Guides volunteers help pack book bags with a variety of items to support early childhood development during a work bee in October.
This year, nine Melfort Girl Guides volunteers and their leader assisted the book bag committee to pack 490 book bags in October.
Initially the 0-3 Taskforce received a Community Initiatives Funding (CIF) grant for the bag’s development. The Melfort Public Health Early Childhood Team, consisting of the Speech and Language Pathologist and the Early Childhood Psychologist along with Public Health Nursing, led the development of this initiative. Current funding support has come from Tisdale Tiny Tornadoes Daycare, RBC (Tisdale), Melfort Kinettes, and Prince Albert Grand Council Maternal Child Health. When the project started, Melfort Public Health staff and the Regional Kids First coordinator were responsible for project administration but this year the Tisdale Tiny Tornadoes Daycare has graciously volunteered to lead the project in the coming years.
In addition to the partners involved in organizing, this year’s supporters include several businesses and organizations from northeast Saskatchewan. This includes Tisdale Dental Hygiene Clinic and Doghide Dental Clinic, Tisdale Dental Group, Pharmasave in Melfort and Tisdale, Prairie North Co-op, Beeland Co-op, Canadian Tire in Melfort, RBC in Tisdale, and Shoppers Drug Mart in Melfort.