Breaking barriers with books through literacy development is the ethos of the newly Children’s Reading Room.
Sisters-in-law Joanna Szulc and Lisa Veber are both early childhood educators who have brought the Children's Reading Room to Guelph, an inclusive space for children to learn literacy skills.
Their book collection is aimed at age infant to 12.
They had their opening day on Wednesday and are currently open Wednesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m at All Saints Lutheran Anglican Church at 210 Silvercreek Pkwy.
Books were donated from people in the community and given through a Value Village program where registered businesses can request items like books.
The reading room is modelled after The Children’s Book Bank in Toronto, created to ensure children have easy access to books.
“Something that’s very important to our organization is the removal of barriers,” said Szulc. No need for a membership, books are free and the building is accessible.
They want to be as inclusive as possible to encourage newcomers to Canada to bring their children to the reading room they said, with multilingual books and books celebrating diversity in their collection.
In the future they hope to have someone use sign language as books are read to children.
If books are damaged it’s not a problem, said Veber. They have books in what they call a book hospital to re-purpose them by turning torn pages into bookmarks or art.
Szulc and Veber run some structured programming in the reading room which is free with no registration required. Open days they have circle time where they read a book, sing a song and play literacy games.
On Thursdays they have story time which pairs with craft making relating to the theme of the book they read. They want the activities to relate to what is going on in the community.
Every child who comes to the Children's Reading Room can take home one book per visit.
“We want these books to be in their kids' homes so they can access them at any time and really fall in love and make a relationship with books,” said Szulc.
The Children’s Reading Room may help fill a literacy gap since there isn’t a library close by in the Onward Willow/Willow West Guelph neighbourhood.
“We really hope the Children’s Reading Room will create library users,” said Szulc.
“Children get an interest in books at a really, really young age with us,” said Veber. This gives a chance for children to find books at the library at any age and reading level.
Szulc and Veber said they both hope children and parents who visit the reading room will get a sense of community involvement and gain strategies to help literacy development.