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Family Literacy Day Jan. 27

On Jan. 27th Canada will celebrate Family Literacy Day.

Submitted by Alix Nicoll, Trustee

For those of us who take reading and writing for granted this may not seem a special day – why celebrate something that we can all do? Doesn’t everyone have the ability? Well, the answer to that question is no.

Literacy skills are not a given and we, as communities, should be aware of this. We need to support all forms of literacy, especially at a young age when the learning experience is so much easier. The older one gets the more difficult it becomes and the more we try to cover up the fact that we have a problem. Think of not being able to read a traffic sign, your child’s report card or your job application form; of being unable to write a cheque or use a computer and think how socially unacceptable this inability is.

The fact is that more than 40 per cent of working people in British Columbia have a hard time with the everyday demands of reading, writing and using numbers. This leads to a difficulty with finding and keeping jobs. It means they may not be able to access the information they need to protect their health, safety or legal rights. And one of the saddest of these limitations is that they may not be able to read to their children.

Add to that the approximately 3 million Canadians who need alternate format material because of a print disability – this could be a visual, physical or learning disability that prevents them from reading print. Put another way, that is 10 per cent of the population. And we haven’t touched on the many elderly who are slowly losing their sight.

I am sure that all of us know that reading to our children is one of the earliest steps in the cycle of learning and that although it may not make every child an avid reader it is proven to give them a head start. Without this crucial parental support, the cycle of under-education continues from generation to generation.

Today in B.C. and across Canada early literacy programs have become a part of the framework of our schools and libraries and have helped so many children and families to understand the importance of being literate. Children who have been deprived of books and reading in the early years are now being helped by numerous programs so that they too can enter the school system on a par with their peers.

We are lucky in Whistler to have a special Children’s Librarian and are able to offer programs such as our twice-weekly story times, Junior Book Club, Summer Reading Club, Books for Babes. There is always a helpful person to advise as to the best books for a certain age group. Our library has been presenting fun and interactive story times for many years. By starting young we hope to teach children a lifelong love of books and learning. Storytime includes a combination of short and long books depending on the age, together with music and action rhymes, which stimulate speech and invite an inquiring mind.

Along with our other partners in Whistler’s Learning Communities , the library is committed to lifelong learning and offering the entire community opportunities to participate in formal and informal learning.

To celebrate Family Literacy Day this year and to promote our learning community, we held a Scrabble for Literacy Tournament. Can you imagine a better way to use words, encourage literacy and challenge the mind? All the funds raised will be going to our Books for Babes program, which ensures that every newborn in Whistler receives a book to celebrate his or her birth.

So what can you do to help support literacy at the library? Well, you could "Adopt a Book" or become a "Friend of the Library" or volunteer and learn about what makes the Whistler Public Library such a vibrant part of our community, or you could just bring a friend to the library and browse the shelves together. I bet you can’t leave without borrowing a book or two!

Oh! And don’t forget to read to that child in your life – young or old, there is just something intangibly wonderful about curling up and listening to a good story on a cold, dark, winter night that is too good to miss – so, throw a log on the fire, make some hot chocolate and get your family together, switch off the TV and begin a great book.