By the time some children are five years-old, they have accumulated much literacy experience. They have enjoyed the pleasures of regular story time and have been introduced to the wonderful worlds found in children’s literature. They have met memorable characters and can recognize the writing styles of particular authors and illustrators. When these children come to school, they do so as if long-time members of a book club: They understand some conventions of literary interaction and have the confidence to participate in the conversation. They understand the story resides in the text; their language is well-developed; and they are fully engaged when stories are read to them.
Some children are not so fortunate. There are many who have not had a single book read to them by the time they arrive at the Kindergarten classroom door. They don’t own any books and, for a variety of reasons, do not have access to public library services. In 2008, the Peninsula Connections for Early Childhood (PCEC) network decided to address this issue by providing free gift bags of books through local family-serving agencies. The PCEC “1000 X 5” Children’s Book Recycling Project has thus far recycled over 38,000 books to young children and families who live on the Saanich Peninsula.
Here’s how the project works… Gently used fiction and non-fiction picture books are donated to any school in District No. 63, the Saanich School Board Office, or the Peninsula Co-op Food Centre. The books are forwarded to volunteers who screen them for suitability; the volunteers count, label, sort, and bag the books as free-of-charge gifts available through 15 distribution sites on the Peninsula.
We do this work because literacy affects everyone. The consequences of illiteracy are profound. Adults with low literacy levels often do poorly in the job market and may lack the skills needed to support the healthy development of their children. Reading to young children on a regular basis increases children’s chances of early success. Interventions in later school years are expensive; our project is an investment in prevention. Reading to children is time when we give them our full attention and confirms they are valued; a regular story time enables them to bond with trusted adults. Reading to children from a young age means the number of books read soon adds up. We hope all children on the Peninsula will have at least 1000 books read to them by the time they are five years-old; hence, the title, “1000 X 5.” That’s less than one story a night—a precious gift for young children.
If you can donate cloth books, board books, or single-concept books suitable for reading to wee ones, or if you would like more information about the PCEC “1000 X 5” Children’s book Recycling Project, please contact the project leader, Daphne Macnaughton: firstname.lastname@example.org