Marie Belanger(left) and Marie Csteo (right) pose in the children's section where many of the books in the program can be found.

Interactive program inspires young readers

The "Ready for Reading" program at the Kennedy/Eglington library has children learning skills at young age

Reading can take a person to so many places. They can be transported back to the past, the future, to imaginary worlds or taught new skills.

We all know how important it is to know how to read, but at what age is the best time to start? At the Toronto Public Library’s Kennedy/Eglinton Branch, readers as young as a couple of months old are getting a head start through the Ready for Reading program.

It was developed in order to help parents of young children build literacy skills through fun and interactive projects. The Toronto Public Library incorporates everyday activities into the program such as talking, singing, reading, writing and playing. The program began in 2007 and since then, the library has placed a new emphasis on showing parents the importance and value reading-readiness has at such a young age.

Based on some of the information provided by Toronto Public Library’s fact sheet on the program,”Ready for Reading”helps prepare children for school and helps them develop their literacy skills faster.

According to the 2012 numbers, more than 181,000 people have attended “Ready for Reading” activities.

Marie Belanger, branch head for the Kennedy/Eglinton library, praised the program.

“(It) is very representative of the community,” Belanger said. “We aim to make the program inclusive to everyone and because of that, it empowers the parents to equip the child with the skills to learn how to read.”

Marianna Cseto, the senior library assistant, runs the Ready for Reading program. She shared some of her observations over the past six weeks.

“It’s truly amazing to watch how the children learn and grow,” Cseto said. “The different ways they interact is also interesting to watch even with them just picking up a book and looking through it.”

Each session, which lasts for 45 minutes, is led by Csteo and her assistant Scruffy, a dog puppet – another tool used to engage the children. The program begins with a good morning song welcoming each child. Then stories are read and more songs are sung.

“The best thing about this program is that it engages the parents as well,” Belanger said. “They do the activities alongside their children and it’s a joy to see the interactions between them.”