“Wow, I didn’t know all this was in here!” That’s one of the most common expressions heard when people turn the corner at the top of the staircase in the Canada Games Centre (CGC) and behold the Family Literacy Centre (FLC) for the first time.

Standing at the top of the steps, looking down into what used to be a storage room for the CGC, visitors will view a large, casual, and welcoming space filled with colourful rugs, couches, puppets, tickle trunks full of costumes, a painting easel, wooden blocks, books aplenty, and a large creative supply of craft materials. It’s all designed to entice families, groups, and individuals to play and learn together on a regular daily basis.

What is family literacy? How can playing with puppets, or painting at an easel with a parent increase a child’s literacy skills?

According to National Adult Literacy Database (NALD), Canada’s information network:

“Family literacy development occurs in everyday life when parents, children, friends, and extended family members use their literacy skills collectively in various actions and activities. It is important to set a positive example and to demonstrate to children the meaningful uses of reading, writing, language, and numeracy in accomplishing day-to-day tasks.”

Family literacy can include such simple undertakings as writing a shopping list, playing a board game, cooking a recipe, or sharing family stories together.

Activities like these form the fundamentals for the transfer of knowledge between generations. Ultimately, family literacy is about enabling all individuals to achieve their life goals. The philosophy of family literacy is that learning begins at home, and parents are their child’s first and foremost teacher.

Three years ago, the Yukon Literacy Coalition opened the doors to the Yukon FLC in Whitehorse. This venture offered a new type of facility unknown to many other parts of Canada.

The FLC provides a space, free of charge, for everyone: grandparents, parents, caregivers, children, and all individuals, to develop the skills necessary to integrate everyday literacy activities into their home environment.

A three-year-old who plays puppets with Grandma is not only learning communication skills by experimenting with new vocabulary and dialogue, but also mirroring what she sees Grandma passing on to her in the way of language and culture.

Drop-in’/Free Play‘ is a daily feature at the FLC, along with scheduled programming such as ‘Storytime for All Ages’, ‘1,2,3 Rhyme With Me’ (rhymes and songs for little ones), and ‘Leaping Literacy‘ (a combination of stories, songs and physical fun). Some of the behind-the-scenes-activities that the FLC staff engages in include administrating and celebrating the popular Dolly Parton/Yukon Imagination Library, collecting resources and materials to share with user groups, and continually developing partnerships with community organizations.

The FLC uses a couple of alternate and very “Yukon-friendly” approaches to draw attention to literary services. For example, the colourful and recognizable wall tent that attracts crowds wherever it is located, whether it is pitched at a music festival or the Fireweed Market.

Activities in the tent can range from learning how to use an old-fashioned typewriter, to bookmaking, to reading stories aloud. The second unique—and most recent—project ventured upon is the bright red, three-wheeled book-bike that was seen around Whitehorse this summer, delivering and discussing books to one and all.

Visited by over 400 people per month, the centre is a key contributor to family and community literacy. During its short lifetime, the people of Whitehorse and the rural Yukon have come to recognize the FLC as a growing and integral part