If you want to catch up on summer reading, visiting the Open Air Library at Iroquois Park might be the easiest way to do it. Just bring yourself: chair, book and blankets are included.
Shantael Sleight, literacy outreach co-ordinator for Saanich Peninsula Literacy, said the event was inspired by an open-air reading event in New York’s Central Park. For two hours, people are encouraged to socialize, pick up a book and read. At the end of the session, participants can keep the book so they can continue reading at home.
The group has moved to Iroquois Park this year, next to the spray park and the putting green. Compared to their former location at Beacon Park, Sleight said the new venue is better from a logistical standpoint, and has better access for Saanich Peninsula residents.
“We really wanted to make sure we were in a space where parking was available, parking, that there was bathrooms and other facilities so people could stay for a while,” said Sleight.
Their previous location was popular for locals but also for tourists, and while she said that was great to see, “we weren’t really hitting our target market, which was people from the community, families living in Sidney and on the Peninsula, or even Victoria.”
Saanich Peninsula Literacy’s mandate is to support community programs and development of literacy and lifelong learning on the Peninsula. They work with different partners: the local school district, both libraries, Beacon Community Services and First Nations, all working together to identify literacy needs in the community and address them. The program is funded by Decota Literacy Solutions, a B.C. literacy non-profit.
On the Saanich Peninsula, Sleight said the group is trying to ascertain what the literacy needs are in the area. They know there is a need to foster informal learning practices for very young children, like reading labels in grocery stores. They want to find ways of helping parents build their children’s literacy skills, said Sleight.
ESL communities are expanding on the Saanich Peninsula, and Sleight said the group is trying to connecting caregivers to groups like Literacy Victoria and other tutoring services so they can feel confident in their English skills. Within First Nations, Sleight said the group is trying to address gaps in extra homework support, where they’re starting to learn in school but also continuing to learn to read.
The 1000×5 Children’s Book Recycling Project provides books for the 0-5 age group, and Saanich Peninsula Literacy also provides funding to them to recycle more children’s books.
In addition to children’s books, there are plenty of books for teens and adults, including fiction, non-fiction, newspapers, magazines, graphic novels and comics.
The event will be held Tuesdays on July 10 and 17 as well as August 7, 14, and 21 from 10-12 p.m. On August 14, library staff and community members will race against the clock to convince their audience of their favourite book, in a special Open Air Library event called Booksmack.