Family Literacy Feature: Magic Carpet Ride at CanLearn Society

Posted:20 March 2018

Author: Amanda Giang, Advanced Education

Found in: ,

Comments: 3

Recommendations: 1


Over the next few weeks, Advanced Education will be posting a series of guest blogs, "Strengthening Family Literacy". The blogs have been written by CALPs about their family literacy programs. The first blog in the series is by Nada Jerkovic, Manager, Literacy Programs, CanLearn Society in Calgary.

When you facilitate a Magic Carpet Ride Program, who is the focus of your work? Who are you there to work with?

If one were to walk through the door to observe our program, one would see parents and children engaged together in activities such as talking, reading, singing and playing. One would also see a program facilitator supporting parent/child interaction or engaged in a conversation with an individual parent or a small group. Many parents are attracted to the program primarily by the possibility of improving their children’s skills. In the light of the fact the program’s content revolves around children, the answers to the two starting questions may seem very straightforward – the children are what the program is all about!

However, let’s examine this more closely!

In the program, parents do not passively watch the facilitators providing instruction to their children. Instead, these three strategies are used:

            • Demonstration with narrative – facilitators interact directly with the child while providing a verbal description of the activity to the parents
            • Practice with feedback – the parent and child work together while the facilitator provides prompting, guidance and feedback
            • Individual and small group conversations - some of them will be about common troubles and tribulations of parenting such as temper tantrums, picky eating, sharing, and separation anxiety. Others will focus on talking about the importance of making early literacy learning joyful: spending time outside, giving children access to open-ended activities, redirecting undesirable behaviours and many other topics of interest are all covered. In all of them, parents are guided and encouraged to ask good questions, think for themselves and problem-solve.

Story time is a vital part of the Magic Carpet Ride Program. During this activity, parents and children sit together on the floor while the program facilitator leads activities including reading, felt-board stories, songs, rhymes, and finger plays. The benefits for children of such activities are apparent, but are there any benefits for parents? The answer to this is yes. Learning about age-appropriate stories, songs, finger plays and nursery rhymes that can be used at home is important; seeing good oral reading strategies in practice such as pointing to words as you read them, asking children questions about what they see on the page and letting them predict what is coming next in the story is immensely valuable. But is there more to it?

Think about this in the context of adults who, for one reason or another, have never learned to read.  They commonly experience difficulties with decoding, language comprehension or both. Decoding skills are highly dependent upon one’s ability to identify and manipulate sounds in oral language (phonological awareness). Is it possible that rhyming, tapping, counting syllables and other language play activities used at story-time are opportunities for developing phonological awareness skills for adults who are non-readers, beginning readers or just learning English?  

You might not be familiar with the technicalities of reading fluency but you probably know a fluent reader when you hear one - they read smoothly, with intonation and expression at the same speed you would use when talking. Struggling readers put so much effort into decoding words that it impacts their fluency, which in turn impacts their comprehension. In the course of a Magic Carpet Ride session, parents get an opportunity to read books to their child, which provides a good opportunity to experience success in practicing fluent reading using familiar and non-intimidating texts.

An awareness of the needs and benefits of developing their own literacy may not be the starting point for the parents when they start the program, but it often comes to the forefront as they participate.

The Magic in Our Work (and Family Literacy in General)

CanLearn blog sidebarOur potential to facilitate positive long-term outcomes both for parents and children does not lie in any particular program model, but in the skills of our practitioners in facilitating adult learning. This involves refocusing the lens through which we have traditionally viewed and interacted with parents. In doing so, we stop telling parents what to do, stop giving them handouts with tips and activities we expect them to embed into daily life and stop focusing our instruction exclusively on the child. Instead, we guide parents to:

            • Identify what s/he wants to learn and accomplish
            • Observe the facilitator model skills and then practice it with the child
            • Ask questions, voice concerns and consider their own learning needs 
            • Problem-solve and think critically about what is best for their child

This is consistent with the following adult learning principles:

            • Adults Learn Through Active Hands-On Experiences
            • Adults Need Learning to be Relevant and Immediately Useful
            • Adults Need Learning to Relate to What They Already Know
            • Adults Learn through Practice and Feedback

The Magic Carpet Ride Program Facilitator is more than an early childhood practitioner who works with young children. S/he is an adult learning facilitator helping parents to “read their world” and grow a culture of lifelong learning for all family members.

Nada Jerkovic,
Manager, Literacy Programs, CanLearn Society


Sign in to view 3 comments