By LeRae Haynes –
With both National Child Day and National Family Literacy Day on the horizon, the Early Years community in Williams Lake is kicking into action to help families celebrate with two upcoming free festivals.
Baby Fest is first, held on November 16 from 3–6 p.m. The event, an information fair, welcomes every baby born here in 2017, providing gifts, prizes, and information on all organizations and businesses with something to enrich and enhance the lives of young families. Put on by Success by 6 and the City of Williams Lake with the help of the Early Childhood Development Network and the business community, the event will feature a special baby welcoming ceremony and live music to entertain and get some tiny toes tapping.
“Baby Fest is a chance for new parents to connect with every agency, every organization, and every business with something to offer a family with a new baby,” explained Lil Mack with Cariboo Chilcotin Partners for Literacy (CCPL), retired librarian, and tireless supporter of children.
“Events, playgroups, health services, safety equipment, toys, books, and more—it’s a one-stop event for everything you need.”
Family Fest, which has been running about 25 years, will take place on January 28 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. A celebration of family literacy, it’s put on by Cariboo Chilcotin Partners for Literacy.
“This is a great opportunity for people to come and enjoy a free event with free food—a chance for the kids to have fun with their parents and caregivers, on a Sunday when more parents can be home to participate,” said Mack.
“People can get together in an informal, fun setting where parents can seek out resources in our community focused on children’s learning, health, and well-being.”
She added that there will be things like poetry, story telling, live music, and puppet shows. “It’s literacy based and promotes reading in the family,” said Mack. “We have a book walk, a book swap table, and we give out free books.”
She said face-to-face time with babies is so important, and it is something celebrated at both festivals.
“Babies need to hear their caregivers’ voices—it creates a bond when you cuddle a baby, talk to a baby, read to a baby. It creates attachment, whether you’re reading the newspaper out loud, or a grocery list. You present them with expression and stimulation and emotion, and that helps them recognize all these as important,” she explained.
“It doesn’t matter whether you have TV, radio, or internet: they can’t replace human touch, hearing, and smelling—that remains with you as a memory that is never forgotten.”
She said singing to your pre-born baby, or listening to music can have a lovely impact. Depending on the music, your baby becomes calmer or more active.
“Sing to your babies,” she said.“You don’t even have to know all the words, or the tune, or even be in tune. Babies don’t care. They just know that you love them.
“It’s never too early to start reading to your child, and that includes story telling.”
Both Baby Fest and Family Fest are held in the Gibraltar Room, which is central and accessible for families.
“When I look around the room at these festivals, I love to see the diversity, see young parents, new parents, and older kids wanting to come and help at the event,” Mack continued.
“Without these services, without things for families to do, how will you attract young families to move here, live here, and work here? If you can’t provide your young families with enjoyable, affordable things to do, you won’t attract.
“We’re trying to rebuild our community, and need to pay attention to what families need,” she said.“These festivals help families feel welcome and valued.”
For more information about all early years events, programs, and services, including the two other free festivals, 3-Year-Old Roundup and the Children’s Festival, visit http://www.wlchild.ca.
LeRae Haynes is a freelance writer, song writer, community co-ordinator for Success by 6, member of Perfect Match dance band, and instigator of lots of music with kids.