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Raising a reader with Calgary Reads

How to foster a love of reading in young children

September 7, 2016 by Centaine Hlushak on Calgary Reads

It’s been a good year for reading.

In the first half of 2016, printed book sales rose by 6.1% -- the first increase in four years – and worldwide literacy rates are steadily increasing. That’s welcome news to Steacy Collyer, founder of Calgary Reads, a non-profit organization dedicated to childhood literacy.

How do we foster that readership in young children? Steacy has suggestions.

 “First and foremost, be a reader yourself. Make sure they see you reading a book as much as you’re on your screens. Little children mimic adults, so be a great role model.”

Steacy, a former elementary school teacher, says that the best time to introduce reading into a kid’s life is Day One. Don’t worry that they’re very young and have short attention spans. Read out loud to them in short increments. If they stop paying attention, stop reading.

“Reading should be about building a bond with kids, and something that they fondly remember.”

For kids who struggle to read, Steacy suggests reading aloud, or using audiobooks. They’ll be able to learn a more advanced vocabulary than if they read books from their own level. Showing empathy and encouragement can also help them enjoy reading, rather than making it into a chore.

“I’m a voracious reader, but even as an adult if I’m asked to read out loud in public, there’s still this nervousness. And yet we expect 5 and 6-year-olds to just do it.”

Reading to kids every night before bed is a valuable ritual, and parents should be prepared to read the same book over and over again. That repetition and having a connection to a favourite familiar book is key to developing a reader.

Calgary Reads teaches parents the importance of The Three Bs.

  1. Books: make sure you have lots.
  2. Book light: for reading before bedtime.
  3. Bookshelf: have a place to keep the books.

“You can get a sense of what someone’s behaviours are when you go into their homes,” Steacy explains. “In a ‘reading home,’ you will see shelves filled with books. They become an artifact of readership.”

As for alternative reading methods like e-books, reports show they’re on the decline in favour of print. There’s a psychological benefit to having physical books as well.

“If your kid’s favourite book is Brown Bear, Brown Bear and they see the spine in the book shelf every day, they’ll be able to pick it out. If it’s on their iPad, they’ll forget about it.”

“We like to tell parents ‘be sure you’re singing, talking, playing, loving every day.’ And read every day that you eat.”


  1. Want to volunteer with Calgary Reads? Opportunities are always available.
  2. Have you read today? Pick up a book now!
  3. Follow Calgary Reads on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
  4. Calgary Reads is launching The Nourish Truck this month in collaboration with Brown Bagging for Calgary Kids, Kids Up Front, ‘NSTEP, and Humanity in Practice (H!p) bringing nutrition of the mind, body and spirit to underprivileged schools.
  5. Vote for Calgary Reads as your favourite non-profit in REAP’s 2016 Be Local Awards!