COW bus pulls into Stettler, making literacy fun for kids

The Alberta Prairie COW (classroom on wheels) bus, a mobile literacy classroom, rolled into Stettler last Friday

The Alberta Prairie COW (classroom on wheels) bus, a mobile literacy classroom, rolled into Stettler last Friday — much to the delight of the younger set.

The bus, with its distinctive black and white paint job — resembling the colour pattern of a Holstein cow — is a project of the Centre for Family Literacy in Edmonton. Two staff members tour the bus throughout Alberta, making literacy fun. The targeted age group for the program is six years and younger.

In addition to books, the program featured interactive games, songs, rhymes and stories to enhance learning skills and explore fun ways to promote an interest in literacy.

The COW bus came to Stettler on the invitation of Stettler Adult Learning, which was fortunate to win the opportunity on a draw.

Mandeja Sargent, family literacy facilitator with Stettler Adult Learning, was pleased with the local participation.

“We had 149 children and 64 adults pass through bus, and we received a lot of positive comments,”

Sargent said. “There were only six repeat visitors who had been to the COW bus before.”

The last time the COW bus was in Stettler was in 2008.

The Centre for Family Literacy and its COW bus program donates 50 new books to each community it visits.

In Stettler, the donated books were presented to the Sharebear Play School.

Teacher Lynne Potter was happy with the donation.

“This is exciting — literacy needs to be promoted as many young people are getting away from reading,” Potter said. “Books and reading need to be made fun.”

Sharebear Play School has 70 children enrolled in four classes.

The COW bus has been in operation since 2003, runs year-round and has a mandate to visit 60 communities every year. The unique visual presence of the bus is also used to advertise local literacy programs.

Stettler Adult Learning sponsors Magic Carpet Ride, a literacy program co-ordinated by Sargent, and offered to the community on a regular basis.

The program, which features stories, crafts, rhymes and songs, is at the Stettler Public Library each Thursday morning and at the Big Valley School on Wednesday morning. More information on the local program is available by contacting Sargent at 403-788-2664.

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