Library Investing in Youth

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Windsor Star/Beatrice Fantoni

Just like newspaper subscribers, there are kids who like to read the printed word and kids who like to read on screen. Local literacy programs in Windsor-Essex make use of both mediums to help children develop a love for reading. Here are two high-tech and two classic approaches to literacy in Windsor-Essex.

High tech: Essex County Library

At Essex County library branches, young readers aged two to eight can learn to read and count using the library's Early Literacy Stations. Raisea-Reader funding has helped the library install 10 stations in library branches across the county.

"Basically, we're investing in our youth," said Janet Woodbridge, the chief librarian at the Essex County Library.

It turns out the most in demand literacy station is at the Leamington branch of the library, clocking in more than 300 visits each month. All 10 stations logged a total of 8,600 sessions last year. The stations are made up of a computer with a special colour-coded keyboard and mouse and more than 60 specially designed games and activities with whimsical titles like World of Goo and Reader Rabbit that help children practise literacy and numeracy.

The idea, Woodbridge said, is to help make it comfortable for parents and guardians to teach their children about reading. The computers purposefully do not include Internet access, she said, to make sure the activities are child-friendly and parents don't have to worry about whether their child will stumble across something inappropriate.

Want to find your nearest Early Literacy Station? Visit or call 519-776-5241.

High tech: Learning Disabilities Association of Windsor-Essex

At the Learning Disabilities Association of Windsor-Essex, kids aged seven to 13 in the ABC-123 literacy program will soon get to use iPads regularly. The organization is phasing them in along with the very well-received smart board - an electronic white board that, aside from functioning like an ordinary white board, can also be used as an interactive screen that students can write on, draw on and touch to point, click and drag elements.

"It's great for visual and kinesthetic learners," said Mary-Ann Fuduric, the lead literacy facilitator at LDAWE. The smart board and other interactive tools have had a noticeable effect on the students' level of enthusiasm in class, she said.

The smart board can be customized to provide instant feedback, such as a "try again" button, as well as animated elements, and reading exercises on the iPad can provide instant access to word definitions or pronunciation by simply tapping on the word.

"I can get more progress than if I was pushing paper, pencils and the books," she said.

That's not to say there isn't a place in the program for those other learning tools that the pre-tablet generation used, such as flash cards or puzzles. Smart board, iPads and interactive technology are just more tools LDAWE can use to help the new generation of learners succeed.

"It's the world they live in. It's what they know."

Classic: Windsor Public Library

A classic print-and-paper book is still a choice tool for helping kids learn and love reading. At Windsor Public Library, Raise-a-Reader funding is helping to expand the library's very successful Book Buddies program and purchase more materials for it. Book Buddies pairs up a child between the ages of six and 14 with an adult volunteer reader and they'll meet once a week to practise reading and try out literacy games and activities to complement book time.  Because the waiting list for a Book Buddy is so hefty, the WPL is also trying out a slightly different version of the program, assigning one reading buddy to pairs or trios of children who can work a little bit more independently on their reading. Think your child might like a Book Buddy? Visit, click on the tab "Visiting the Library" and then on "Our Services" or call 519-255-6770 ext. 4433

Classic: A Book of My Own A Book of My Own is a local charity that works with social services agencies in Windsor-Essex to distribute new books to local kids in need. Much of its funding is through Raise-a-Reader grants.  Many of the children who receive books from the organization come from low-income families where there isn't much money to spend on books, said Mary Jane Finn, the president of the group.  By providing these children with a brand new book that is theirs to keep (A Book of My Own even puts a personalized book plate into each book it gives away) it gives children a sense of ownership and - more importantly - helps them develop imagination and a love of reading, Finn said.

"It's theirs to keep and enjoy as many times as they want to," she said, and reading helps children grow into creative, imaginative adults with better employment prospects.

A Book of My Own gives away about 3,000 books each year, and they are all current and popular titles.

The best kid-friendly literacy apps to try Wondering how to incorporate reading and number practice into your children's screen time? We took advice from Mary-Ann Fuduric, the lead literacy coordinator at LDAWE, and had a browse on the Reading Rockets website ( to find age-appropriate literacy apps for children. This website does the "window shopping" for you, ranking the Top 10 iPad and Tablet apps for various literacy and age categories. (Bonus: Some of them are free!)

What titles are kids and teens reading these days? Here are some examples of the titles young Windsor-Essex readers have been able to discover thanks to A Book of My Own and Raise-a-Reader donations:

Ages 0-2: Titles by Eric Carle, such as The Grouchy Ladybug

Ages 3-5: The Scaredy Squirrel series, written and illustrated by Melanie Watt

Ages 6-8: The Spiderwick Chronicles series, by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi

Ages 9-12: Titles by Roald Dahl, such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Ages 13-17: The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins

Did you know? Research has shown that people with low literacy levels tend to be in poorer health than those with a high level of literacy. Low literacy - which is often linked with poverty - affects nutrition, mental health and the ability to prevent illness. The higher your level of literacy, the more equipped you are to seek out and understand health information and interact with health professionals and institutions. On an even more basic level, low literacy skills lead to the misuse of medication, for example, and preventable use of emergency room services.

The more literate you are, the more you'll earn at work. Adults with high literacy skills are twice as likely to be employed than adults with low literacy skills. As well, their salaries are up to 33 per cent higher. The better your literacy skills, the easier it is for you to access education, training and opportunities for advancement in your community.

Higher levels of literacy help prevent crime. Offenders in Canadian jails and prisons are four times more likely than the general population to have a learning disability. Low literacy is among those factors contributing to incarceration. Investing in literacy is an effective crime prevention strategy because literacy can help mitigate risk factors such as poverty, unemployment and isolation that can lead to crime. The rate of return on basic education and vocational programs in prisons is between 200 and 300 per cent.

Source: Canadian Literacy and Learning Network