Families embrance summer reading program in Hope

Story Time in the Park saw 2,332 children and families this year

Attendance at Story Time in the Park this summer was on par with numbers from last year.

Organizers saw 2,332 children and families participate in the weekly literacy program in Memorial Park. Final numbers also showed a turnout of 103 in Boston Bar.

“It was incredible how people were just in love with the program,” said coordinator Mallory Lothian. “I think people are recognizing that literacy is really important.”

Story Time in the Park takes place in Hope, Boston Bar, Agassiz and Harrison Hot Springs during July and 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. This summer’s program featured yoga, singsongs, dancing, games, and a talent contest.

“We were trying to provide something for everybody and just really focus in on participation with the whole family and getting kids active this year,” said Lothian.

Story Time in the Park costs between $40,000 and $60,000 to run every year, depending on the books, food and entertainment provided. The three major sponsors are Telus, Envision Financial, and Raise a Reader. Together they provide half the funding needed to run the program, with the remainder covered by grants and community donations.

Story Time in the Park was created nine years ago to help families discover the value of reading and develop lifelong literacy skills. Since then, there’s been a 15 per cent improvement in cognitive and language development with children entering kindergarten.

“It’s really important to have a program like this because 42.3 per cent of kids entering kindergarten in Hope weren’t ready in 2010. The provincial average is 29 per cent,” said Lothian.

The importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies will be celebrated worldwide on Sept. 8 during International Literacy Day.