Last night I was honoured to attend a "Storytime Stop" at our local mall. It was a story time where people are invite to come and hear stories read out loud to them and where word recognition, singing and games abound. The whole atmosphere was one of celebrating words and stories. How fun to see kids (and their parents too) enter into the great stories presented and the games that were played. Huge smiles were on faces and the audience was very happy to be there. A lot of these children are experiencing difficulty reading at school so this is a reinforcement of reading skills in a fun, non-threatening way. Many of the children come from different countries and are being shown love and kindness as the leaders reach out to support them in their transition to becoming integrated into a new country. Two of the moms that come do not have children but are attending so they too can benefit from the the language and reading barriers that they experience in a new land.
I was asked to be a guest reader and I chose to read a book that I have previously reviewed on my blog called, "Enemy Pie." The children ages ranged from newborn - ages 13 or 14. They all sat perfectly still and mesmerized as the story was read aloud to them. They happily and with no apprehension join into the discussions and interaction with the leaders because this reading space is a safe reading space for them.
I was so happy to see the older kids come out and join in the celebration. Sometimes when you are experiencing difficulty in a public setting with your reading(and are a bit older) you are shy, apprehensive, sometimes made fun of, because you struggle terribly with the skills that you need to master. Here these kids have found a safe haven to immerse themselves in. They allowed themselves to join in the frivolity of the night with no one judging them or making them feel inadiquite or different.
It is the hope of Baby Bookworms and Beyond (the ones presenting the workshop) that breakout groups for different ages will evolve and group teaching and book clubs will be formed for the kids.
The mall had an empty space to fill, so how appropriate and heavenly that a "literacy space" was allowed to go in there. Mall management has been more than helpful to get this space up and running. In New York and places across the USA empty spaces are being filled with art shows and art related events....how wonderful if Canada could take our empty spaces and turn them into reading/literacy rooms. I pray that Canada can take the lead in this and model the "Celebration of Literacy" from shore to shore. We would be filling up the physical empty spaces that lay dormant and useless all around us and would be exchanging that poverty into an emotional and intellectual awakening in the spaces of our kid's minds and hearts.
Reading is critical. Reading is enjoyable. Every child and adult should have a right to read. We have so many talented and gifted, trained teachers and educators that could step up, volunteer their time and truly make a difference in a child's life by teaching him/her to read well. By creative and innovative ways we can turn our illiteracy rate around and put not only the skills of reading but the pure enjoyment of reading back into our kids. It can be done and as a community and country rallying around this priceless goal our kids, (Canada's future leaders) will make us all proud.