OAL photoOn Tuesday mornings in July and August, Peninsula “1000 X 5” Project volunteers join members of Saanich Peninsula Literacy at the Open-Air Library (OAL) at Beacon Park in Sidney.  The OAL was initiated last summer by Marlene Dergousoff, Literacy Outreach Coordinator for the Saanich Peninsula following her trip to New York City and a visit to the Outdoor Reading Room in Bryant Park.  Marlene returned home with the idea:  We can do something like this in our community.  On a smaller scale, we did!

PCEC “1000 X 5” Project volunteers and I had much fun last summer—giving away hundreds of books for babies, toddlers, and other young children.  At each session, we talked with people about the value of developing home libraries and the importance of reading to children on a regular basis.  The OAL Tuesdays also provided an opportunity encourage families to recycle books their children have outgrown via donation bins at their neighbourhood schools.

Marlene developed a slide show which is now posted on the Saanich Peninsula Literacy website at: http://www.saanichpeninsulaliteracy.ca/videos/open-air-library The images you can see there “speak louder than words.”  They illustrate what happens when children are surrounded by readers and enthralled by stories and ideas expressed in non-fiction books.  Recently, I reviewed the pictures and noticed there was not a cell phone in sight!  I was reminded of the positive effects of dispensing with distractions and what can happen when we give our full attention to children when reading to them.  I also noticed:

  • the attachment between the children and readers. Babies and toddlers were snuggled on laps.  Young children huddled close to their parents, older children were reading side-by-side with their friends and to siblings, and grandparents were engaged in the experience of book-sharing.
  • the total focus of the children. Children were fully attentive as adults pointed to pictures, moved their fingers underneath the text, and built suspense by asking questions such as:  What do you think will happen next?
  • the dialogic quality of communication. I remembered overhearing back-and-forth conversations about new words, interesting characters, plots and themes, and favourite authors and illustrators.
  • the abundance of role models. Lone adults reading books, magazines, and newspapers on blankets and in chairs reinforce the fact that reading is something people do for various reasons, including pleasure and information seeking.
  • the surprise when participants discovered the books are free. Many of the images show the delight on the faces of children after they selected a book to take home.  It was heart-warming to see their books tucked into strollers and bags, and to hear their words of thanks at the end of the morning!

This summer (weather permitting), there are five  more Open-Air Library sessions planned—July 26th;  and August 2nd, 9th, 16th, and 23rd.  We invite you to come read with us…  There is no cost, no need to register;  readers of all ages are welcome.  If you see a cell phone on one of these days, it will only be because someone is photographing a precious moment in time…

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