Valley Community Learning Association program allows families to author books

Kirk Starratt
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With the help of mom Shelley Palmer, eight-year-old Aiden Palmer of Wolfville writes a book as part of a Valley Community Learning Association family literacy program called Publish It. – Kirk Starratt,


When it comes to promoting childhood literacy, it’s important to read together as a family and it’s important to write together, too.

The Valley Community Learning Association offers children and parents a chance to connect through a family literacy initiative called Publish It, a program where computer templates are used to write and desktop-publish books.

It’s a way to get children interested in writing that often results in a cherished family memento. The books are often based on photos from family adventures or drawings by the child, which are then scanned onto a computer.

Shelley Palmer of Wolfville and her eight-year-old son, Aiden, were among those on hand at the Valley Community Learning Centre in Kentville on Dec. 7 to take part in a Publish It workshop. They were working on an early Christmas gift for Aiden’s grandmother, a book featuring the photos and stories of adventures they’ve shared.

“I like putting the pictures on and writing about the pictures,” Aiden said. He thinks other families would enjoy writing a book together if they gave it a try.

Shelley said this was their second workshop and they’d finish their book that day. Aiden is improving his reading and writing skills and he’s quite artistic, drawing all the time and getting better. She said writing the book together was a good learning experience for Aiden, and a lot of fun as well. Both were excited to see how it would turn out.

Shelley said a co-worker who had attended an earlier Publish It workshop told her about it. The co-worker had heard about the family literacy program while attending a Kings Early Years Screening for School (KEYSS) clinic.

Family Literacy facilitator Marie White said that parents and children who take part enjoy the collaborative learning experience.

“Families are so creative with this, it’s phenomenal,” she said.

As part of Family Literacy Program outreach efforts, they often set up display books at Grade Primary registrations and KEYSS clinics to raise awareness of the Publish It sessions. White said it’s about engaging families in literacy, as well as reaching parents who may have left school early, for example, who are in need of upgrading skills.

Sometimes, she said, people who see the display books recognize the author or family. Some of the books are in school libraries. White said when children read Publish It books, they learn about other families and this helps to build a sense of community.

As a non-profit organization depending largely on volunteer efforts, the Valley Community Learning Association offers programs and tutoring for adults to improve reading, writing or math skills, earn their high school equivalency and more. The association offers these services for free.

Family literacy co-ordinator Sophie Berube said that, with a second learning centre in Middleton, the Valley Community Learning Association fosters literacy in Kings and Annapolis counties. Berube said helping parents with literacy is often the best avenue to helping children develop reading, writing and math skills.

“Our main goal is to help adults reach their learning goals,” she said. “As part of the organization, we take care of family literacy projects.”

She said their first Publish It project was at Cambridge Elementary School, where “Swingset Press” was created and parents and children wrote 150 books. Since then, they’ve done projects in several other schools and other locations. In the past seven years, more than 1,000 books have been produced across the Valley as part of the learning association’s Publish It initiative.

Berube said the association usually holds six Publish It sessions in the fall, some during the week and some on weekends. Although the Dec. 7 session was the last one for now, there will be more coming up during March break and in June.

For more information on this or other Valley Community Learning Association programs, visit, email or call 679-5252. You can call toll-free at 1-866-898-7323.

Organizations: The Valley Community Learning Association, Valley Community Learning Centre, Cambridge Elementary School

Geographic location: Kentville, Middleton, Kings Annapolis

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