Sunday, December 10, 2006

How It All Began


Not really. But you have to pick some kind of starting point, or you're right back to the Flood.

In the summer of 2003, the Crescent Valley Community Tenant's Association (CVCTA), the Saint John Free Public Library, and ourselves (Community Learning New Brunswick) joined in a project to improve one neighbourhood's access to literacy and library services. The plan was to provide a summer reading program for children / families.

The Crescent Valley neighbourhood is located in Saint John's North End. It is a residential neighbourhood made up of multi-unit buildings, grouped about common green spaces and bordered by mixed commercial and residential properties. It is some distance from the nearest public library (via an indirect bus route). It is also New Brunswick's largest Anglophone public housing community.

The model we used incorporated providing books for, and reading to, children in a "storytent". For us, a storytent is an 8x8 foot canopy with blankets and a ground sheet, a box of books and two to three adults. The role of the adults is to read, sing and talk with children as requested; to listen to children who wish to read to them; and to provide positive adult role models. We also let children borrow books from the tent. We offered this program twice weekly in each of five different locations.

The methods we used were based on established principles of an humanistic, learner-centered philosophy of delivery and management (Glasser, 1994: Knowles, 1988); early childhood education (National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1990) and Quality Education (Glasser, 2000; Glasser, 1998 - hence the name Quality Storytents). It is our belief that this process was instrumental to the success of the project. And success there was. Qualitative and quantitative research showed:
  • a positive impact on reading frequency
  • more children from this community participating in Summer Reading Club than the previous year
  • all assessed children maintaining or gaining in independent reading level
  • strengthening relationships between the neighbourhood and the library

As Summer turned to Fall, the children and families asked us to continue the Storytents on Saturday. Not knowing how to decide between locations, we began offering "Twenty-minute Storytents" in each location. It was hectic, but readership remained high. At last, however, the Canadian cold made even 20 min. too long.

What to do?

We'd been hauling our Storytent set-up around in a metal garden wagon. Discussions with families led to the idea of simply travelling door to door with books to borrow. Soon enough, we had a travelling library. The Bookwagon program operated each Saturday, rolling over a course of 3.5 km (2.2 mi). Since December of 2003, we've lent just over 12,600 books - children's and adult's - in snow, sleet and hail.

Glasser, W. (2000). Every student can succeed. California: Black Forest Press.
Glasser, W. (1998). Choice theory: A new psychology of personal freedom. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.
Glasser, W. (1994). The control theory manager. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.
Knowles, M. (1980). The modern practice of adult education. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
O'Sullivan, J. & Howe, M. (1999). Overcoming poverty: Promoting literacy in children from low-income families. (NALD Full-text Documents). Available: http://www.nald.ca/PROVINCE/ALT/CRL/Projects/Opoverty/cover.htm.

More details, see the documents at the CLNB Linkhub

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