Reading with your child can be one of the most rewarding, bonding experiences a parent can have, and it also plays a vital role in early childhood development. For some families, the cost of acquiring books to support their toddler’s curious mind can be a challenging hurdle. The Edmonton Public Library (EPL) believes it shouldn’t be.
Ready. Set. READ! is a book-gifting program spearheaded by EPL in collaboration with the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. Through the program, EPL delivers one book (to keep!) each month to children aged zero to five in an effort to encourage childhood reading and help families build an age-appropriate library at home.
Ninety percent of a child’s brain development occurs by age five. Research has shown that the initial five years of a child’s life are critically important for their development, and Ready. Set. READ! focuses specifically on these early years.
“Everything we know about children’s development — and how brains develop — indicates that’s the peak time,” says Elaine Jones, manager of youth services with EPL. “Children’s brains are growing and making connections. There’s so much learning going on in that time. It’s where you can really leverage the best results.”
Books are selected by a committee organized by the Dolly Parton Imagination Library and are distributed by age to families that have registered with the program. In Canada, books are selected to include Canadian and Indigenous content in their reading lists, too.
But putting together a program like this, however noble, isn’t cheap. It costs about $60 per child per year — a cost made much lower thanks to the Imagination Library’s ability to negotiate lower book prices.
Still, EPL needs to raise $1.2 million to ensure this program, which is funded entirely by EPL supporters, can continue to help 5,000 kids each month for five years!
“As we bring children on to the program, we want to be able to sustain participation until they age out,” Jones says. “It’s a commitment we’re making, so we need to keep the funding going to keep that commitment to the kids when we register them.”
This autumn, EPL’s fundraising campaign encourages the Edmonton community to embrace early literacy in memory of the late Julie Rohr, a dedicated local literature enthusiast who sadly lost her life to cancer two years ago.
“Our family wholeheartedly believes in the value of introducing books in the early stages of a child’s life—a passion that started with Julie reading with her mother as a child,” says Julie’s husband David. “We will forever champion early literacy and are proud to help EPL.”
The Rohr family urges others to share their commitment to safeguard childhood literacy and support Ready. Set. READ! so the joy of reading can become a cherished part of every child’s life in Edmonton.
“In society, we have seen declining trends of reading for pleasure, which is something that can support literacy. That free, voluntary reading is important, particularly when people are young, so we think it’s particularly important to invest in children at this age,” says Jones. “It’s a great way of contributing to our community and leaving a legacy. Our children are our investment in the future and it just makes sense to give them a great start.”
If you’d like to inspire young children to love reading, you can learn more and donate here.
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