Jon Polishak reads along with his two-year-old daughter during one of the Story Time in the Park events this summer in Hope.

Story Time attracts hundreds

Local program finishes season with best turnout to date

Story Time in the Park had a record turnout this summer in Hope.

Organizers saw an average of 230 children and another 347 people participate in the literacy program every week in Memorial Park. Final numbers show a total participation of 1,841 kids and 2,777 people over the two months.

“We’ve never had as many families attend as we had this year, and for that we would like to thank all of the people that chose to spend their afternoons in the park with us, enjoying the magic of reading,” said Kyle Kjemhus, who has helped coordinate the event for the last four years with Dustin Martin.

Story Time in the Park is a summer program that takes place in Hope, Boston Bar, Agassiz and Harrison Hot Springs. Families meet at their community park, listen to a story while following along in their own copy of the book of the week, have a light lunch, and participate in an activity or entertainment. This year, 1,115 new books and 796 used books were handed out to participants in Hope.

Three years ago, Story Time in the Park added a writing component to the program. Families and individuals of all ages are encouraged to write and illustrate a children’s story for an annual story writing contest. The winners of each age category receive cash prizes and have their stories published and distributed in the Fraser Valley Regional Library. This year, 17 entries were submitted and winners were selected in five categories. They are Leah Munday (preschool), Camryn Munday (elementary school), Kyle Comrie (elementary-intermediate), Chayton Ajula (secondary) and Tracey Bonshor (family).

Sponsored by Envision Financial in partnership with Free Rein Associates, Story Time in the Park was created to help families discover the value of reading and develop lifelong literary skills. It’s since played an important role in strengthening the region’s literacy program. The Hope Early Years Committee and Fraser Cascade Literacy Task Initiative group are working together to ensure that children and families have adequate literacy levels to function in society.

Since Story Time in the Park started eight years ago, early child literacy levels have improved dramatically.

The latest Early Development Instrument shows that 21.6 per cent of Hope children entering kindergarten in 2000 were vulnerable in the language and cognitive development. In 2010, that number dropped to 5.6 per cent.

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