BY JOE WEPPLER
According to www.literacy.ca, 42 per cent of Canadian adults between the ages of 16 and 65 have low literacy skills. As recently as 2013, Statistics Canada found that not even a quarter of work-aged respondents scored above level 3 – the minimum level of proficiency – on the International Adult Literacy Survey.
According to professionals, the key to increasing the literacy rate in Canada is simple. Introduce reading to children at an early age.
“It’s incredibly important. It’s the most important thing, as far as I’m concerned,” said Tina Runstedler, the children’s team leader for the Preston branch of Idea Exchange, Cambridge’s version of a modern, city-wide library service.
“It lets them build a foundation for everything in their life, no matter what they’re going to study or what they’re going to do,” she said.
Conestoga students agree with Runstedler.
“It’s vital to me,” said first-year practical nursing student, Brooke Rier. “It’s important for children to develop good reading and writing skills in order to ensure success in both schooling as well as their future careers.”
“(It helps) develop children’s minds towards intelligence and imagination,” said Portia Bejjany, a second-year television broadcasting student.
Runstedler played host on Oct. 23 at the Preston library to around 20 children and their parents for a drop-in morning of songs, crafts, dancing and, most importantly, storytime.
The story of choice that week was Big Bear Hug by Nicholas Oldland, an endearing tale about a large, tree-hugging bear who comes face to face with an axe-hefting lumberjack. The story, with its simple yet powerful message of environmentalism and violence avoidance, is the most recent title selected by the Let’s Read committee. Let’s Read is a family literacy initiative in Waterloo Region dedicated to getting children, and their families, reading.
Hosting events across Waterloo Region, Let’s Read is a large proponent of not only teaching and encouraging children to read, but also being a role model and using literacy skills in every day life.
Let’s Read urges anyone with children involved in their lives, be it parents, uncles, aunts or siblings, to set a solid example and read with and engage them on a daily basis.
For those who never got in to reading as a hobby at a young age, or are interested in reading but don’t know where to start, Runstedler has a tip for you.
“Read whatever you love,” she said. “If you love comic books, games, anything that hooks your interest, read it. Not everyone wants to read heavy political science journals. And you don’t have to. Read what you find interesting.”