Family Literacy Day: helping create a culture of reading

Willows elementary Grade 3 students (from left

Willows elementary Grade 3 students (from left

Instilling a love of reading early is critical to forming a lifelong habit

Yamila Bawa thinks they’re funny. Lachlan Stewart likes the one about the dog. Evan Carswell likes the book with birds – he has six birds himself.

These three Willows elementary school Grade 3 students are talking about Michael Arvaarluk Kusugak’s picture books. The Inuit author has written nine such books in 20 years. His stories tell both traditional and modern tales and are illustrated with the brilliant colours of the northern lights.

Kusugak was scheduled to visit Willows on Thursday (Jan. 27) as part of National Family Literacy Day.

With the death of his brother, that visit has been postponed to Feb. 10.

On Family Literacy Day, parents are reminded to try spending at least 15 minutes each day reading with their young children.

“Kids who have more exposure and more family-connected time reading at home have that passion to read, and you can see that in their school lives,” said Launie Frankson, a Grade 1 teacher at Willows and an educator for 25 years.

Author visits are not rarities at the school, Frankson said. “Literacy day at Willows is really all the time.”

There’s the usual quiet reading time in classes. But parents also read with students in classes, and older students read with younger students. Last fall two Grade 1 teachers hosted an evening workshop to teach parents how to introduce books to small children in meaningful ways. Parents were taught ways to have a complete reading experience with their kids, how to give stories meaning.

At Monterey middle school, librarian Keely Thornton is bringing her grandfather, Don Hepburn, to read to Grade 8s on Literacy Day.

“I asked them if they’d like to bring their parents to read and they looked at me like I had a third head,” she said jokingly.

First thing on Thursday morning, the school will host a “drop everything and read” event, where for half an hour students and staff will stop to read.

No set event is planned for Thursday at St. Michaels University School’s junior campus (kindergarten to Grade 5) on Victoria Avenue.

But school librarian Diana Nason says SMUS runs various incentive programs through the year challenging students to read at least five nights in a week with their parents.

“The best gift you can give your child is reading with them,” the 17-year staffer said. “Children who read well can write well, they can take on a second language easier, their marks are better.”

It’s important to cultivate a love for reading at home, she added, so that creating a culture of reading at school comes naturally.

Nason is especially thrilled when her former students, attending the SMUS senior school, come in to read with the young children. “They come in and tell me what they’re reading now, what books they like.”

For more information on Family Literacy Day and ideas on how to work with your children to improve their reading skills, visit

– with files from Don Descoteau

Loving literacy

• Sat. Jan. 29, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. – Tall Tales Books, 795 Fort St. is hosting the ReadUp Tweetup. Peg Hasted and Sandra Johnson will read aloud from 11 a.m. to noon. A scavenger hunt with prizes, and other activities are included.

• Sun. Jan. 30, 1 to 5 p.m. – Victoria READ Society co-hosts a family game-a-thon at Ruth King elementary, 2764 Jacklin Rd. in Langford. Snacks are available and a donation is suggested. Please pre-register by calling 250-388-7225.