The Children’s Book Bank is best known for supplying free children’s books to families in high-needs communities throughout Toronto. This is a large part of what we do and we enjoy it a lot but it’s not our only focus. The other part of our mission is to provide literacy support.
Literacy support is a broad term that encompasses many different activities and approaches. When the Book Bank was first established, the Board of Directors recognized that the value of a free book is enhanced when parents and guardians are able to use the book to its fullest potential. A pile of books that sits in a home untouched does not have the same impact on a child as a pile of books that are read together, child and parent, every week.
Over the past month, our Assistant Executive Director, Jackie Flowers, has visited a group of parents with pre-school children at a local parenting resource centre in Regent Park on a weekly basis. The focus of the visit was more than just the traditional storytime – the emphasis was on children sharing books with their parents. As part of each visit, Jackie read stories to the group but the “break period” was used for parent-child reading. The children picked a book from the selection Jackie brought each week and the parents engaged the children with the book for the next 10 minutes.
There was a somewhat rocky beginning as the one-on-one reading exercise didn’t come naturally to all parents. But by the last week, the routine was well-established and many parents who had once looked uncomfortable, no longer did. The turnaround was very encouraging!
Also, as part of the program, some parents chose to keep track of the time they spent reading together at home: one chart shows a parent who read to her son for 300 minutes in January!
The next piece of exciting news is that Jackie will be running an in-house program at the Book Bank that uses the same format as described above. It will run on Tuesdays from 2:30pm to 3:00pm.