Story Time boosts literacy skills in Hope

Program offered throughout Fraser Cascade

Story Time in the Park has had a successful run, once again. Each week this summer, about 700 children and adults participated in this free family literacy celebration. The Fraser Cascade Literacy Task initiative group, partnered with the Hope Early Years Committee, was able to offer the program in Agassiz, Harrison, Hope and North Bend and once at Seabird Island. They gave out more than 2,000 new children’s books and supplied free lunches and entertainment. This year, five out of the eight stories were written by local authors.

“All of this would not be possible without the support of community organizations and businesses. Many people volunteered their time and energy, authors and restaurant owners gave us discount prices,” said Maureen Kehler, Fraser Cascade literacy outreach coordinator.

This year’s financial supporters were Envision, Success By Six, Service Canada (Canada Summer Jobs), Hope Lions Club, Hope Fraternal Order of Eagles, Hope Drive-In, and Friends of the Library in Hope and Agassiz.

Story Time in the Park in Hope was started eight years ago, by Heather Stewin.

She realized how important it is to get books in the hands of families in an environment that is barrier free. No building to walk into, no door to walk through, no fee to pay, and no one watching and listening to how well you can read. The program was so popular and grew so big that Heather asked the Hope Early Years Committee to help. Soon the Fraser Cascade Task Initiative was involved as the program was expanded to Boston Bar, Agassiz and Harrison Hot Springs.

Since the program started, early child literacy levels have improved dramatically, Kehler said. An instrument used to measure early child development indicates that 21.6 per cent of children entering kindergarten in Hope in 2000 were vulnerable in the Language and Cognitive Development domain. In 2010, this number has dropped significantly to 5.6 per cent.

The faces that families have gotten to know over the past four years, Dustin Martin and Kyle Kjemhus, won’t be facilitating the program next year. The program will carry on, though.

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