Children get reading exposure

New 1000X5 program seeks more support

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A new Salt Spring Literacy Society program aims to give the island’s youngest members access to as many books as possible.

When SSLS board member Maureen Stuart learned about the 1000X5 program operating in other B.C. communities, she wanted to bring the concept to Salt Spring.

The “1,000 by 5” term refers to the importance of a child’s exposure to books in the first five years of life.

“The project is based upon the belief that if a child hears 1,000 books by age five, he or she is much better prepared to enjoy and succeed in learning,” explains Stuart.

Stuart and fellow board member Cathy McCluskey researched what was needed to establish a Salt Spring program. Victoria-based organizers were extremely helpful, giving Stuart and McCluskey a tour of their operations, and donating books and materials.

Books were purchased locally from West of the Moon and Salt Spring Books (which gave a generous 30 per cent discount), from Orca Book Publishers and Scholastic Books. Orca also donated books, as have other agencies and individuals. Donation bins set up at the island’s elementary schools brought in still more books.

Funds were provided by the Salt Spring Island Foundation ($5,000), the Salt Spring Foundation of Youth ($1,000) and Salt Spring Literacy ($1,500).

Enough new and gently used books were acquired so that 100 children aged five and under received three books each through the first distribution day held in June. The second one is scheduled for early October.

Because the program is set up in space donated by Salt Spring Elementary School, that school’s Strong Start participants were one of the beneficiaries, along with families accessed through Family Place and Island Women Against Violence. 

Books in the gift bags are selected by reading specialists and teachers, and are sorted by appropriateness for age and subject. Selecting and packaging them requires a great deal of expertise, care, time and effort.

“We don’t include books on specific religions or on parenting, respecting parents’ rights to decide on those subjects for themselves,” Stuart explained.

Recipients are welcome to exchange individual books with other recipients or to recycle any unwanted books in the red donation bins in local elementary schools and Family Place.

In order to maintain and expand the program, more book donations and funds are needed.

“We are hoping to get more books through the donation bins at the schools to facilitate our future distributions,” said McCluskey. “It is recycling at its best: Books that are still in good shape will be loved once again.”

Especially needed are new board books for babies and toddlers, as they tend to be chewed and not as appropriate for passing on.

The program will be evaluated at the end of the year and organizers hope it can be expanded to include families in the other Strong Start programs on the island.

Anyone with books or funds to donate or wanting to volunteer is welcome to contact Stuart at 250-931-2267 or the Salt Spring Literacy office at 250-537-9717, or info@saltspringliteracy.org.

For more on this story, see the Sept. 25, 2019 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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