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Literacy in the library — it’s about more than just books

in Around Town/Columnists/Community/Education by

When you consider the word ‘literacy,’ you mostly likely think about reading, but did you know that literacy encompasses so much more than that? There is digital literacy, financial literacy, community literacy…and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Schools are designed to teach students all sorts of literacy as they progress through the grades – preparing children for the ‘real world.’

Can you think of another institution that has similar goals? If you guessed the local library, then you are absolutely correct.

Libraries are in a fantastic position to support the literacies valued by the school system, for students of all ability levels from Kindergarten through high school (in addition to the early years mentioned in this article). Services and resources for school-aged children are so important because this age group learns so much, and at such a rapid pace. Skills get developed that are a key stepping stone to living a competent adult life.

Teachers see great value in libraries. Sammi Manderson, a Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) teacher points out a number of benefits, stating that “literacy increases a child’s vocabulary. The more my students read and write, the more in depth their conversations get with other students, along with their conversations with me.”

She continues to mention that “the library is a safe space for students to go and really enhance their literacy. Sometimes in class, students don’t have the opportunity to learn about what they are truly interested in. The library allows this with their literacy programming, resources, and their available books. Engaging students in reading and writing now can easily lead them to lifelong learning.” This teacher testimony further shows the positive partnership between library and school.

In a world where children are incredibly busy with extracurricular activities such as sports or music lessons, the library offers a unique experience with a variety of activities.

At Kawartha Lakes Public Library you will find many activities for school-aged children. Not only are there children’s book clubs and writing clubs, but also makerspace activities for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) education and special coding events. These can all be explored in the events calendar.

In this digital age, programs like these simply aren’t enough. To help with digital literacy, the library also provides many online resources for learning and reading for pleasure. For a complete list, please visit this link to our online items and resources.

A new program that is very exciting is the drop-in chess program. Here, people of all ages come together to play chess, which is a fantastic opportunity for intergenerational relationships to form.

Library staff realize that children like interactive and engaging activities, and they provide many interesting programs as a result. Some special programs that have run include Read to the Dogs, cooking workshops, writing workshops and more. Programs are dynamic and changing – really allowing for library staff to cater towards children and teens’ needs and interests.

As you can see, these programs don’t just relate to reading, and in fact don’t always relate to education either. While many activities happening in the library do follow the school curriculum closely, some are simply done to encourage a love of learning in ways that children may not always get to experience.

Simply put, libraries support learning. They increase school success and stimulate imagination. Investing in literacy with school-aged children is a great long term investment at an individual level and a community-at-large level. By providing children with resources, libraries are able to connect children to the global world around them.

Parents, you of course want to help your child in any way possible. Here are some quick tips to help ensure success. First, get a library card, or help your child get their very own library card. This simple act opens the doors to a world of resources and is a fantastic starting point for any child. Also, try to go to your local branch regularly to check-out books or participate in programs. Click here to find the branch nearest you. Use the previous links to find the events calendar, and use the digital resources.

Would you like to learn more about how you can help your child on their journey to success? Talk to any of the library staff – they would be happy to assist.

These activities will strengthen your child’s mind, and overall love of learning. Of course, we cannot forget that regular library participation strengthens and maintains reading habits for school-aged children too. As Dr. Seuss once said, “the more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

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Lyndsay Bowen is 'Library Specialist, Outreach & Community Engagement’ for the Kawartha Lakes Library system.

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