For Family Literacy Day, a group of us from work volunteered to read to kids at Marlborough Elementary School during an event put on by Calgary Reads. Calgary Reads is a non-profit organization promoting literacy in Calgary and helping those kids who are struggling. They have 400 tutors working one-on-one with hundreds of kids, and several other programs for parents, children, and schools, with plenty of volunteer opportunities.
Each of us sat down with a cluster of Grade 1 or 2 kids and read books. The time flew by. We read for 20 minutes but some of us didn’t even finish one book—a tribute to the power of storytelling as kids asked questions, expressed their opinions, analyzed artwork. The gym buzzed with the sound of 50 volunteers sharing the joy of reading with 80 children.
And when we were done our official duties, the storytelling continued. People told tales of reading to their own kids. Of their kids growing up. Of their childhood. It continued as we told others about our experience that morning. It will keep on going. Storytelling has no end. You don’t have to write novels or recite The Cremation of Sam McGee from memory to be a storyteller. It is how we communicate every day. It is how we learned all that we did since evolution steered us onto this road, with stories winding through millennia, shifting forms.
Think how frustrating it would be to not be able to read the stories your peers are devouring. In Calgary, 1 in 4 children is behind in their literacy skills by grade 2 and may never catch up. Stories are an essential part of our lives. Yes we can tell them to each other vocally, or watch them on TV, or see them in theatres. But a huge number of stories are written. Not just books, but e-mails, letters, sticky-notes, road signs, text messages, blogs, social media. We are a very textual society. And inspiring a child to read by reading to them—or even so much as letting them see you reading—can make a huge difference down the road.
Celebrate literacy by writing down one of your own stories, or reading one to someone else.
Steacy Collyer, Calgary Reads’s Executive Director, has this advice for how to make Calgary – and the world – a better place:
2. Read to someone else
3. Read every day that you eat
I’m pretty sure we can all handle that. And if you have some spare time, volunteer to read with a struggling student for a little while each week. You’ll change their life.
- Written by Jenna, a Calgary Reads volunteer.
Read more by Jenna on her blog: