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Read Letter Day

Calgary Public Library
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Innovation Leader: Jean Ludlam, Manager, Services for Children, Teens and Families , Jean.Ludlam@calgarypubliclibrary.com

Problem Statement

Corporations were calling Calgary Public Library looking for opportunities to volun-teer as a group. Most often they were interested in volunteering in the area of literacy. The Library wanted to capitalize on their interest, but had no vehicle for engaging these potential volunteers. The Library was also seeking an opportunity to better serve the needs of children in daycares. Calgary’s very high percentage of two income families means more preschool children are in daycare than ever before. Finally, the Library is always looking for opportunities to educate citizens about the issue of low literacy.

Innovation

We developed a program called Read Letter Day to enable groups of corporate volunteers to give some time to the Library. The program runs on an as requested basis and takes about 1.5 hours to deliver.

For volunteers the programs is designed to:

  • Provide some information about the issue of low literacy and the impact of reading aloud on children’s literacy development.
  • Provide instruction in ways to read aloud to children and encourage the development of pre-literacy skills
  • Offer them the rewarding experience of reading one-on-one with children
  • Offer them the experience of making a difference in a child’s life by giving them the gift of a book to take home.

For children the program is designed to:

  • Introduce reading to young children
  • Instill confidence and genuine desire for lifelong learning
  • Provide access to the world of books and knowledge
  • Increase the amount of time spent reading to children in a daycare or Library setting
  • Provide family/caregivers information about the Library
  • Increase awareness and use of library resources, services and programs

When a corporation contacts the Library, the Manager of Volunteer Resources works with them to identify a location and time that will work for their event.

The selected library location is asked to recruit a daycare to come to the library on that day and time.

Staff at the selected location pull suitable read aloud material for the volunteers to choose from for their reading time with the daycare kids.

On the Read Letter Day, the corporate volunteers arrive 30 minutes before the daycare kids. They are thanked for their contribution, given a brief information presentation about the importance of literacy, particularly early literacy, and the role of the public library and given brief instructions on how to read with children. When the children arrive, staff deliver one story in a storytime format, then the children and the volunteers are introduced and paired up for some one on one reading time. The pairs distribute themselves in comfy spots around the children’s area of the library. After reading for 10 – 15 min, the children and volunteers regroup to enjoy a snack. If gifts are being given they are distributed after children have their coats on and are ready to go.

Progress

To date, the Library has hosted 7 corporations for a Read Letter Day. In 2009, 55 volunteers participated and contributed 170 hours reading to 225 children. Corporate volunteers have responded positively to the opportunity and some corporations have become repeat volunteers! The Library has used this opportunity to educate Calgarians about the importance of and issues surrounding literacy.