Print Edition: January 28, 2015
The library is a good place to spend any rainy Saturday, but it’s even better when there’s free pizza and balloon animals involved.
On January 24, hundreds of families attended the ninth Abbotsford Family Literacy Day Celebration at the Fraser Valley Regional Library — a celebration which has become so popular that this year it was co-hosted by the Reach Gallery Museum for the first time.
As well as enjoying a free pancake breakfast cooked by firefighters, live music from solo musician Will Stroet, and balloon animals made to order, kids had the chance to clamber in and out of police cars and fire trucks parked outside the library and gallery — and, of course, to check out books from the library’s well-stocked children’s section. A face painting booth was also a hit, and several arts and crafts tables offered kids the chance to decorate their own bookmarks or fill in colouring pages with markers and crayons.
Cynthia Churchill, library services assistant and organizer of the Family Literacy Day Celebration, estimated that there were between 800 and 1000 people in attendance this year.
“Because it’s grown so much, we have the Reach on board this year as well,” she said, noting that many of the day’s activities were taking place at the gallery across the parking lot from the library. To encourage visitors to explore all the event’s booths and exhibits at both venues, “passports” were issued to each visitor featuring a list of the event’s community partners. Each booth stamped visitors’ passports to show they’d visited, and kids who collected enough stamps could enter to win a prize, including a trip to a children’s art camp at the Reach.
Hilary Russell, who manages the three public libraries in Abbotsford, noted that the partnership with the Reach isn’t just about needing more space — by extending the celebration to the gallery and museum, the event encourages children to learn about local history and art as well as literature.
“[Holding the celebration at the Reach] is important as well in a cultural literacy sense,” she said. “Literacy is so fundamental to every person’s success in life. It’s a broader concept than just reading. Literacy, numeracy, understanding the world we live in —- these things all connect us together. ”
Several of the community partners, such as Abbotsford Community Services, Abbotsford Early Childhood Committee, and the Fraser Valley Child Development Centre, were on hand to connect struggling families with social and educational resources. Abbotsford’s thriving multicultural population was also well-represented at the event, and several of the tables offered resources tailored to their needs: Abbotsford Community Services offered settlement services for immigrant families adapting to Canadian life as well as diversity education resources, and UFV’s ESL and university preparation departments also had tables set up, offering information to parents and children alike.
Although the kids who were clutching balloon animals and climbing around in police cars might disagree, the annual celebration is about more than just having fun — it’s about fostering a love of reading from an early age. Representatives from school district 34 were on hand to connect parents with information about preschool literacy initiatives such as Ready, Set, Learn and StrongStart. Allyson Robinson, who runs the Sweeney StrongStart Centre, supervised an arts and crafts table where kids personalized door hangers with sparkly stickers, foam letters, and pipe cleaners, while curriculum helping teacher Maria Limpright offered parents information about how to get their children involved in literacy programs at an early age.
“What we’re doing is providing information about reading strategies,” said Limpright, who has volunteered at the celebration for the last six years running. “We’re working to give kids a stronger start as readers, which really gives them a stronger start in every way.”