The Great Gordini puts on a magic show for an avid audience during the first Storytime in the Park. (Grace Kennedy/The Observer)

Funding uncertain, but Agassiz’s Storytime in the Park will go on, organizer says

The literacy program takes place each summer in Agassiz, Harrison and Seabird Island

One of Storytime in the Park’s major funding sources will no longer be supporting the summer literacy program, but the committee isn’t worried about the future of the event.

For nearly two decades, Storytime in the Park has brought an outdoor reading event to Agassiz’s Pioneer Park for eight weeks each summer. Also taking place periodically in Harrison and Seabird Island, the free event gives kids under the age of six a chance to listen to someone read a book and then enjoy some entertainment and snacks.

After each reading, every kid goes home with a free copy of the book that was read — which can add up to a lot of literature, especially as more than 1,000 people came out to the event over the course of the summer last year.

“The whole point of Storytime in the Park is that there are no barriers,” organizer Serina Badiali said. Badiali works with the Ministry of Child and Family Development, and is a member of the Storytime in the Park committee.

“Everybody can get a book, so there’s no need for any child not to have a book in their home. Every child gets food, so everybody gets to eat,” she added. “It’s all about the community, bringing the community together.”

RELATED: Sunshine and smiles for Storytime in the Park

The book and food purchases make up the bulk of Storytime in the Park’s costs each year. Although many books are donated by organizations like Agassiz’s Friends of the Library, Badiali said the committee still budgets $5,000 each year for book purchases. And although much of the food is donated by places like Agassiz’s Subway or the library, sometimes volunteers have to run out and buy more to make sure every child has enough.

“More of a snack than a meal, but they’re our primary running costs,” Badiali said. “We don’t pay anybody, so we don’t have any operating costs of that nature.”

In the past, Storytime in the Park had received about $3,000 in funding each year from United Way’s Success by Six grant, which was started to help support family friendly programs across B.C.

However, in January of this year, the Success by Six grant program ended. Although Storytime in the Park received enough money the previous summer to keep this year’s events going, no more will be coming for next year.

But Badiali isn’t worried.

“While the funding is changing, I’m not really concerned about the future,” she said.

Storytime in the Park has other funders as well, she explained. FortisBC has supported the event for several years, as has the Vancouver Sun’s Raise a Reader program. The District of Kent, the Village of Harrison and local businesses all contribute as well.

This year, a one-time $2,500 grant from Canada Post also eased some of that financial burden, although this won’t be coming back for the 2020 summer season.

RELATED: Canada Post supports popular literacy program in Agassiz, Seabird Island

“We’re looking for other grant opportunities,” Badiali said. “Normally it’s after the summer that we start looking heavily into the grants. But there are others out there.”

Until a new, more permanent funding source is found, Badiali said, “it’s just a case of utilizing what we have.”

“We also try to provide entertainment at the event,” she said. “That can be scaled down if it had to be, but there’s not necessarily any reason why it has to be at this stage.”

Storytime in the Park will continue this summer on Wednesdays starting at 11 a.m. until Aug. 21. Families are invited to register starting at 10:30 a.m. so organizers know how much food to prepare after the reading and entertainment.

Storytime in the Park will be held in Pioneer Park for the last two Wednesdays in July. It will be held in Harrison Hot Springs for the month of August.



grace.kennedy@ahobserver.com

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