by Darlene Ryan
When I was growing up we took the bus into the city every second Saturday to go to the library. The library was a beautiful old stone building with an imposing set of stairs up to the front doors, high ceilings and shelves of books that reached way over my head. It was funded, in part, by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. (Why he helped pay for a library in a small Canadian city I don't know.) Every visit I’d take home a stack of books that had to last for two weeks and somehow never did.
Now I’m taking the munchkin to the library--and still coming home with a stack of books for myself. She’s too old now for Robert Munsch, but I still sneak out with Love You Forever or The Paperbag Princess once in a while. A couple of weeks ago she came home from the school library with There’s An Alligator Under My Bed, not for herself—it’s another book she says she’s too old for now—she brought it for me, because it was always one of my favorites. At least that’s what she said.
I can’t imagine life without books. With books I’ve gone places I’ll never visit and done things I’ll never get to do. There’s almost no chance I’ll ever end up at the
In honour of Family Literacy Day, on January 27, here are some ideas to get everyone reading a little more.
Take the kids to the bookstore. Buy everyone a book, bring the books home and read them together. (Some not-so-enthusiastic readers can be enticed with a graphic novel.) If they aren’t your children, check with their parents to see if anything is off limits. Too scary, for instance.
When you’re out with kids read the street and store signs with them. If you’re looking for an address have a child watch for the street name and building number. Hey, let’s face it. Their eyes are sharper than ours.
Ask a child to read the recipe to you when you cook. This is actually very helpful if like me you need glasses to see the recipe, but find they tend to fall into the bowl when you’re mixing.
Stick a chalkboard or a white board in the kitchen and write notes to each other. When the munchkin was learning to read I’d spell out a couple of supper choices on the refrigerator with magnetic letters and she got to choose what we’d have—Rice or Potatoes, Corn or Beans, Fruit or Cookie. No surprise, cookie was the first word she figured out.
Read the newspaper together. Look for mentions of your child’s school on the sports pages. Follow their favorite baseball team or hockey player. Take turns reading the comic strips to each other.
Visit the library. And don’t limit yourself to the children’s department. Borrow a cookbook. Learn how to make authentic curry or sushi—at least on paper. Take home back issues of National Geographic—or Rolling Stone.
And check out up-coming activities. Thanks to the library we’ve made our own pretzels and ice cream, we’ve learned to weave and make paper maché, we’ve created some spectacular paper airplanes and exploded a volcano in the middle of the kitchen. And we’ve learned it’s better to explode a volcano outside.
Write to the children in your life. Exchange email or snail mail. The munchkin, for instance, loves “real” mail. Share funny stories from your own childhood or about their parents. Ask questions that can’t be answered with a yes or no.
Encourage kids to make up stories and poems and write them down. One night a week at dinner share them. Parents too. Give dollar store prizes for the funniest poem or the scariest story. Invite friends to join you with their stories.
Let your kids see you read. Adults who read are more likely to have kids who read. (At least in my experience.)