Read-a-thon concludes on Family Literacy Day 

If all is going according to plan, Whistler kids have had their noses buried in books for most of last week as part of this year’s read-a-thon.

The read-a-thon was organized by the Myrtle Philip community school library and the Whistler Public Library. The books were cracked open Jan. 19 and the event wraps up at midnight Saturday, Jan. 27 – Family Literacy Day.

The annual read-a-thon was launched in 1998 as way of raising money. Kids gather pledges, record how long they read and what they read during the week and then gather the pledge money.

In the first year, 225 children participated and raised $5,500. The record year was 1990 when busy bookworms brought in just under $6,000.

While it is a great way to raise cash for the libraries, it is also a way to inspire kids to read. "We think this is a wonderful way to celebrate Family Literacy Day and we hope that children and their parents will read together on a regular basis and thus encourage children to become life-long readers," said teacher-librarian Ellen Bartlett.

She said one of the greatest contributions parents can make to a child’s reading development is to instil a desire to read. Teachers can teach how to read but no teacher can beat a parent as a reading model.

Provincial statistics show more than 40 per cent of working people in B.C. have a hard time coping with everyday reading, writing and using numbers. Literacy research shows that if parents place a high value on reading, their children will too, because the home is the child’s first classroom.

In announcing literacy day this year, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs noted that ministry programs help public libraries focus on the value of literacy throughout the year and that more than 90 family literacy programs and services are now in operation throughout the province. This represents an increase of more than 80 per cent over last year, said the ministry, and the numbers are growing, community by community.

While Whistler may not seem a community in need of such a program, a recent assessment report, Family Literacy: A Year of Discovery — A Family Literacy Needs Assessment for the Communities of Squamish and Whistler, found there is.

The study was done by the Sea to Sky Community Services Society, the Squamish Public Library and Capilano College.

"I became aware that people in the Squamish and Whistler communities were interested in a family literacy program," said regional literacy co-ordinator Michelle Lebeau. "But there was no real evidence that programs were needed. This report uncovers that evidence and includes recommendations to develop a pilot project," she said.

"The plan includes a family program that focuses on the needs of both adults and children in Squamish and a program that focuses more specifically on early intervention in Whistler.

The study is electronically available or in hard copy from Capilano college’s Squamish campus.

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