For obvious reasons, this is my favourite page in The Baby's Catalogue. Oh, children's books. They're as good as any book, but they've got pictures. And it has been a delight to celebrate them this week, to celebrate Family Literacy, and to find out that such a celebration is so contagious. That children's books are made to be shared.
Of course, we're preaching to the choir here. Anyone who'd be reading this blog in the first place (except for whatever curious person arrived searching for "sex with pickles") is probably well aware of the importance of family literacy. I bet we were all read to as children, that we read to any children we have, and that we even read to children we don't have.
And all of this, of course, is a luxury. Family Literacy Day is sponsored by ABC Canada, which promotes adult literacy through a wide variety of programs. We are fortunate that in Canada, illiteracy is rare, but less rare (and harder to acknowledge) are low literacy skills, which are experienced by 4 out of 10 Canadians. The implications of this are enormous, in particular at the family level, and at the workplace level, and through their programs, ABC Canada aims to provide adults access to the learning skills they require.
Another organization doing wonderful work for literacy is the Children's Book Bank in Toronto, which provides children in the Regent Park neighbourhood with free books and a terrific atmosphere in which to enjoy them. The space is absolutely beautiful, like the best children's bookstore you can imagine, and the books (albeit secondhand) are in good shape, excellently organized. It's a place that respects itself, and the kids sense that, and feel better about themselves for just being there, and their pleasure at choosing books of their own is absolutely palpable. They also often come accompanied by their parents, many of whom end of learning English literacy skills from the books their kids bring home from the Book Bank. The Children's Book Bank is a fantastic innovation, and I'd recommend it for anyone who is looking to get rid of good quality used children's books, or as a good recipient for a book drive.
A final organization in Toronto that I'm just starting to learn about is Literature for Life, which promotes reading to groups of pregnant or parenting teenage mothers, and publishes a magazine by these women and for them. It's an amazing idea, whereby not only do these women learn how reading enriches their lives, but they gain the skills to pass a love of reading on to their children.
Finally, I want to share my favourite Family Literacy Resources. Australian writer Mem Fox has an excellent website, including her instructions for reading aloud and her Ten read-aloud commandments (1. Spend at least ten wildly happy minutes every single day reading aloud.)
And more recently, I've fallen in love with Canadian author Sheree Fitch's website. Sheree Fitch is an inventor of words, and she's made up one called "thrival", which is as important as "survival", and is what literacy is necessary for. Read her excellent essay here. Her own list of literacy resources is here.