Cultural Engagement Working Group

January 2017 Update:

The Greater Nanaimo Early Years Partnership Cultural Awareness Committee has developed and curated a collection of culturally-specific literacy kits for children up to six years of age.  These kits are designed to help parents and caregivers actively encourage early literacy skills through books, rhymes, games, music and activities all contained in a handy backpack.  Many of the kits are in the native language of each culture - a first for Nanaimo! The kits can be borrowed from any branch of the Vancouver Island Regional Library for up to 3 weeks at a time.

Why do we need these kits?

Libraries and educators have used literacy kits to help children explore language and cognitive development through reading and playing together.  But until now, there haven’t been resources available in languages other than English or French, and few that reflect the unique culture of individual children.  And for bilingual families who have made Nanaimo their new home, it can be difficult to come by books and other resources that allow their children to connect with their native language and culture.

In fact, it was a child who originally sparked the idea for this project!  A young Metis girl was visiting the library with her grandmother and wondered why none of the stories available related to her culture and background.  She just didn’t feel included.  After speaking to a local librarian, she and her grandmother decided that Nanaimo needed a Metis literacy kit.  The Greater Nanaimo Early Years Partnership took on the challenge to build kits not only for Metis children, but for many other cultures as well.

What cultures and languages are currently available?

VIRL had already developed 11 general Coast Salish kits as well as many related to First Nations themes.  To complement and expand on the existing cultural kits, we can now offer:

Arabic Chinese (in Mandarin)

Colombian Czech 

Japanese Metis (in English and Cree Michef)

Russian Serbian

Slovakian Spanish 

What is in the Literacy Kit?

Each backpack contains at least 8 books (sometimes more!) of age-appropriate stories, rhymes or language readers, as well as a CD and/or DVD, and usually a toy.  For instance, the Chinese kit incorporates a card game; the Japanese kit provides a paper kite; and the Serbian kit has a small stuffed bear.  All of these items are used to engage the child in stories, rhymes and play in order to build literacy skills that will help their language and reading development from an early age.  For those having difficulty finding reading material in their native languages, many of the books are written in the language of the culture represented, or in a combination of English and another language.

How are they used?

Parents, caregivers and educators can borrow the kits from the library for up to 3 weeks at a time.  Reading to a child every day, and using the toys, games or music to engage them as well, has been shown to increase literacy skills and comprehension, even in pre-school children.  And of course, it increases the bond between children and their caregivers in a way that can be fun for the whole family!

Where can I get one?

The Literacy kits are available at the Harbourfront, Wellington and Nanaimo North branches of the Vancouver Island Regional Library. They can also be ordered online, through the VIRL online catalogue at, for pickup at any of the Library’s 39 branches across the island.  Each kit can be borrowed for up to 3 weeks at a time.

Goals Completed 2014/2015

1) Created and completed the Logo and Poster to be used at all events “Many leaves, One Tree” see website
2) Had the Coffee Party in May and shared the Cultural Resource Template to gain more information about the organizations that came for Coffee. We invited approximately 20 Cultural groups to the table.  We learned that the majority of cultural groups listed and invited do not have early year’s programs or children activities. Programs and activities are primarily geared to seniors only. Information gathered shared with GNEYP for the website.
3) Success in sharing GYNEP and Cultural Engagement Group’s role with people at the Multicultural Festival. Received a donation of $5.00 for GYNEP.
4)  Joy from Mid Island Metis Nation, Carrie from Tillicum Lelum and Melanie from Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre each shared what a Literacy Kit looks like. Metis, Snuneymuxw and Nuu-chah-nulth kits were presented for the group to see         

5) Created a diversity definition:   We appreciate, accept and celebrate the uniqueness of each child and family by embracing and nurturing cultural safety, equity and equality



October 2015 Update:

This poster was created by the GNEYP Cultural Engagement Working Group is meant to be interactive. It displays the GNEYP logo and a large tree with the word "Many leaves, one tree" indicating many diverse families and organizations in the Nanaimo area.  Paper leaves or blossoms can be added to the tree by participants at an event. Depending on the event, children may write on a blossom words about their family, or participants may add the name of their organization, or programs that they offer for families. Anything is possible!

Click on the picture to see the full sized poster.

September 2015 Action Plan:

1) Continued cultural learning opportunities for GNEYP service providers,
a. Working in partnership with VIU to facilitate a course they teach on Understanding and Recognizing Aboriginal Protocols
2) Create Literacy kits for Metis, Snuneymuxw, Chinese and Japanese cultures to be distributed on loan through the Vancouver Island Regional Library
a. Partnering with VIRL and our member Jennifer Seper to store the Literacy kits at the library to loan to families who are interested in learning
b. Example of a Literacy kit in the Metis kit: 15 books, 3 Michif language DVD's, Steps in Time Metis Dance & Instruction, set of spoons to play, miniature Metis Flag, one Red Sash and one Blue Sash
3) Working on the definition of Diversity from a Early Years Perspective
4) Engage Elders from various Cultural Groups to share Protocols, Beliefs and ways of working with Children from their cultural perspective
5) Looking for New members to join us

June 2015 update:

Cultural Group goals from the 2014-16 GNEYP plan:

1) Increase cultural learning opportunities for GNEYP service providers

2) Create an applied definition of diversity- , logo, Tree that has every leaf as a resource

Specific goals worked on since September 2014:

  1. Connect with cultural groups and build a resource list of cultural program and services

a. Developed a GNEYP Cultural Resources Template which asks various questions of organizations/agencies as to what programs they have, the age of the children they serve etc. We will gather the information at different events and refer people directly to the GNEYP website when it is ready.
b. Created a logo for the Cultural Working Group with an image of a tree and the works “Many Leave, One Tree” at the base.
c. Coffee Party was held May 20 at the Boys and Girls Club downtown. We invited the Cultural Groups to fill out the templates and then join us for coffee and snacks to learn more about each other.
d. Multicultural Festival: GNEYP Cultural Group had a table at the festival (June 2015). We handed out GNEYP information and engaged Cultural Groups to fill out the template (to add their information to the GNEYP website).
e. Festival of Banners: Joy at Mid Island Metis Nation brought in a brochure for the Festival of Banners and the Cultural Engagement Group is looking at getting a banner made for GNEYP/Cultural Group. Another opportunity to represent and brings awareness of GYNEP.
2.   Create cultural literacy boxes - We are working with different Cultural groups to produce Literacy Kits. Some can be placed in the Library for families to sign out; others would be left with the organizations developing them as resources and to inform. Literacy Kits we have discussed and shared have been from the Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre a Nuu-Chah-Nulth kit, Tillicum Lelum with a Grandparents/Elder kit, Mid Island Metis Nation has a Metis kit. There are protocols for sharing and storing some kits, being aware and informed will be very important.
3.   We will continue to work on the Acronym list to add to the GNEYP website, gather information from various cultural groups, promote literacy kits/boxes, Inviting Elders to our group meetings to further inform practices in working with children, what type of programs would benefit and what cultural safety means for them.
4.   Definition of Diversity: (to be reviewed and edited if needed)

Greater Early Nanaimo Early Years Partnership is inclusive to multicultural diversity and freedom in our community by embracing and nurturing cultural safety, equity and equality. During the early years inclusion is forming connections that are responsive to individual abilities, strengths and interests. We appreciate and accept the uniqueness of each child and family.

September 2014 Action Plan:

  • Host a gathering to identify cultural groups in Nanaimo serving families with children under 6
  • Create a template of agencies/organizations and their resources/services
  • Create a definition of cultural diversity and safety
  • Create learning opportunities for GNEYP and the community
  • Create a plan for reaching out and engaging others

June 2014 Adopted Plan:

  • Increase cultural learning and engagement opportunities
  • Create and share a GNEYP definition of diversity


Scott Beam (PacificCARE Family Enrichment Society– Executive Director)

Phone: 250-756-2022 Email:

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