Story Time in the Park is celebrating an important milestone this year.
The barrier-free summer program was created 10 years ago by Heather Stewin to help families discover the value of reading and develop lifelong literacy skills. Stewin was honoured with a plant dedication in Hope’s Memorial Park on Tuesday during the kickoff to this year’s Story Time in the Park. In addition to Hope Mayor Susan Johnston reading Earth Day, Birthday!, there was also a performance by can-can dancers, and entertainment with magician Jeff Christensen, also known as The Great Smartini.
“The overall theme this year is the environment, which basically is to get kids to appreciate nature,” said Christine Proulx, director of Free Rein Associates. “If they appreciate nature, maybe they will be outside more. Kids are staying indoors more and more, and there’s a correlation between that, and learning and general health.”
But Story Time in the Park isn’t limited to Hope. It takes place on Mondays in Boston Bar and Tuesdays in Hope from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. throughout July and August. It is also in Agassiz on Wednesdays in July and Harrison Hot Springs on Wednesdays in August. Families meet in their community park to listen to a story while following along in their own copy of the book each week. They also receive free lunch and participate in an activity or entertainment.
Story Time in the Park is sponsored by Free Rein Associates in partnership with Envision Financial, District of Hope, Kinder Morgan, BC Hydro, Fortis BC, CP Rail, Raise-A-Reader, and Build-A-Bear Workshop. Since the program’s creation, statistics in the area have shown a 15 per cent improvement in cognitive and language development with children entering kindergarten. However, Proulx said literacy rates are not as good as they should be.
“It’s really important to get families with young children to understand that literacy is the key to everything,” she added. “People think of literacy as reading books, but it’s so much more than that. The more literate a community is, the more successful it is. So, the higher the literacy rate, the more economically viable a community is.”
A story writing contest is running again this summer in conjunction with Story Time in the Park. Everyone in the Fraser-Cascade region is welcome to submit their own stories for children. The writing contest winner will see their book published and distributed to children attending Story Time in the Park next year.
• Familiar faces from Treehouse TV will be joining Story Time in the Park on July 9 (Hope) and 10 (Agassiz). Bobs & LoLo are a Vancouver-based children’s music duo consisting of Robyn Hardy and Lorraine Pond. Sharing musical stories that engage, inspire and educate, Bobs & LoLo teach kids to care about themselves, their neighbours and the planet.