Making children feel more comfortable in Comox Valley

A group of early childhood educators is hoping a new signage project will make children more comfortable in their community.

Early childhood educators Charlene Gray, Laurel Hodgins and Tracy Wharram shared the first phase of Childsign Comox Valley with Courtenay council last week.

Childsign Comox Valley is a three-part project aimed at promoting the awareness and understanding of children, children's learning and early years topics in the Comox Valley.

"Our goal for this project is to raise the awareness of children, children's issues and the work of early childhood educators in the Comox Valley by way of these child-focused projects," said Wharram.

Childsign is made possible through the Communities of Leadership Innovation Project, sponsored by the Early Childhood Educators of B.C. (ECEBC) and the VanCity Community Foundation.

The first phase of the project is to post signs identifying common gathering places on municipal and community buildings at a pre-school child's eye level.

"These signs will depict both picture and simple text, and the signs can be placed directly on a building or erected on a low post," said Hodgins. "These signs are low-maintenance and will be made out of vandal-resistant material. They're made of primary colours that appeal to young children."

Childsign Comox Valley will develop and purchase the signs, which it hopes to place on buildings such as city hall, the library, the fire hall, the post office, the pool and other places children and their families might frequent.

"The seeds of literacy, we know, grow very early, and they begin at a very young age, and children learn to recognize signs and symbols in their community long before they can read," said Gray. "By reading their way around the neighbourhood, children will feel a strong sense of connection and feel a part of that neighbourhood."

Childsign Comox Valley hopes this project will encourage policy-makers to understand that children are community members just like adults and to plan for, value and include children in their planning, explained Gray.

Gray, Hodgins and Wharram asked the city to consider supporting Childsign Comox Valley in principle, to allow the signs on municipal buildings governed by the city and to consider having Public Works involved in installing the signs to the city's specifications. Maintenance would be Childsign's responsibility.

"As long-time residents of the Valley, we know this is a great place to grow up, and we think this project fits right in with the well-known family atmosphere that the Comox Valley is known for," said Gray.

Council referred the group's request to city staff for information.

Coun. Jon Ambler thought Childsign was a "great, positive project."

"I've always said the litmus test for a democracy is how well they look after their weakest and powerless members of their society, and that's always going to be children," he said. "I also like the idea it's not just for the children who live here."

Coun. Ronna-Rae Leonard liked the idea of getting children to feel comfortable at City Hall.

The second part of the Childsign project is to develop child-friendly window stickers for businesses, while the final phase is creating community display cases in Comox, Courtenay and Cumberland.

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