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Raise-a-Reader: South Vancouver Family Place helps instil love of books in children

Donations to The Vancouver Sun’s Raise-a-Reader campaign help support the non-profit charitable organization that runs South Vancouver Family Place.

By Vancouver Sun

South Vancouver Family Place is a buzzing hive of colourful activity during its drop-in for families, with preschoolers rolling Play-Doh, building train sets or happily and noisily running around the jam-packed room.

It’s here that Marjorie Lam takes her grandson Markus Toye, partly to foster his love of reading and books.

Markus is just two and is years away from being able to read, but he’s already got favourites — anything with pictures of trucks.

Lam recognizes the importance getting him used to turning to the written word at a young age, and she’s grateful that donations to The Vancouver Sun’s Raise-a-Reader campaign help support the non-profit charitable organization that runs the venue.

“Literacy is important,” said Lam, as she rolled out Play-Doh for Markus. “My husband and I speak English, and the other set of grandparents who also care for him speak Cantonese. It’s good for him to be able to expand his horizons.”

Lam said early learning literacy programs are more than just an enjoyable morning out for families “if you have a family that isn’t speaking English at home.”

Markus is also encouraged to love books at home, where his parents have set up a book shelf and area for him where his six-year-old sister reads to him before bed.

South Vancouver Family Place’s new executive director Julio Bello said the drop-in is a popular program and “the literacy programs here have an incredible impact on the families that come here.”

He knows from personal experience as the father of two children, one of whom needed a tutor for reading skills, that programs that help children to read are necessary, even when they’re in school. He said the one-on-one tutor is an expensive option for which not all families have financial resources.

Bello said any additional funds for non-profit neighbourhood houses are welcome and used.

Some 16 per cent of British Columbians (or 700,000) were at a Level 1 literacy or below in 2012, according to a 2012 international survey (the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies) that 27,000 Canadians participated in.

Level 1 literacy means struggling with filling out a form at work, navigating a website, finding information in a list sent home from preschool, using information on a food label or comparison shopping.

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