By Brenda Maguire
NEW BRITAIN — The children were all smiles in the Cloud Room at the YWCA one day last week as they sat on their mothers’ laps playing with new toys and looking over books.
The toys and books were part of the 15 literacy bags that the Junior League of Greater New Britain, a local organization of women who promote volunteerism, donated to the literacy program at the YWCA on Glen Street.
“It’s a way of getting parents and kids involved together,” said Donna Griffen, community council director of the Junior League, adding, “It seemed like a worthwhile project.”
The parents in the program are working toward obtaining their General Educational Development (GED) degree or are learning English as a second language. While they’re in class, their children are in childcare at the YWCA in the “play and learn room” where they are also learning how to read.
The literacy bags each contained a book such as “The Velveteen Rabbit.” Along with the book, the bags contained activities or toys that correspond with the book, such as a toy stuffed rabbit.
“It allows us to give our parents something to take home,” said Barbara Heidenis of the family support network at the YWCA. “It’s a positive way to spend time with their children and gain literacy.”
Nhakki Santos, 2, was already enjoying the dinosaur activities bag, which included dinosaur books, toys and puppets.
“The literacy bags are going to be fun,” said his mother, Deshena Santos, who has been in the program since September. She later added, “It’s a good activity to get the kids to remember books.”
The literacy bags will be loaned out to parents in a process similar to a library. They will be able to sign out one bag at a time to take home and share with their children.
Victoria Johnson, who helps coordinate the childcare and assists the parents in the program, noted that reading is necessary for the children and parents to learn for the rest of their lives.
“Hopefully it starts lifelong reading,” she said.
For more information on the literacy program contact Heidenis at (860) 225-4681, ext. 234.