DESCRIPTION: These two Saint John-based Community Literacy Workers will present and discuss the Quality Storytent Program, the initial research and recent developments. The Quality Storytent is an outdoor family reading program that has expanded upon the Library’s Summer Reading Club providing access to books and literacy support for underserved families and neighbourhoods since 2003.Sessions, APLA 2010
A few weeks back, we presented at the Atlantic Provinces Library Association (APLA) 2010 Conference in Saint John. We did an hour and a half power-point presentation for about 30 people based on our 2005 document Summer Reading Club: Outreach library service through a neighbourhood storytent program. (An abridged version of the ppt is available as a pdf file here.)
It was only slightly nerve-racking, though I must say I much prefer doing Storytent to talking about it in front of a room full of adult strangers. One thing that came out of it was an invitation to re-present in Campbellton this week. We've been there before - this will be their 3rd Storytent summer - but they wanted a chance to reflect and refresh. As well, they'll be hosting some folks from near-by Grand Falls who are hoping to start their own.
While we were sorting this out, the librarian from Campbellton told us this story. The local RCMP, quiet supporters of their storytents, told her they had seen a better than 90% decrease in crime in the neighbourhood they were serving. The librarian thought - as I do - that this was nonsense. The storytent is swell, but it's not a crime-reduction tool. The RCMP member shrugged. The rate went down. There was only one significant change in the neighbourhood. The change was storytent and all the related connections and micro-supports that tag along with it (strengthened relationships with speech language professionals, a small after-school homework help program, more positive self-attitudes around reading and learning, etc.).
For us, that other stuff, the big and little things that come from the Storytent program - an invite to a Christmas party, a mom asking for help with her home-school relations, a request for supported year-round borrowing, an adult's request for help with their own reading - display the power of the program when delivered well and with care.
I'm still pretty iffy on that crime reduction stuff. But good things, and sometimes unexpected things, can come from a storytent.
But then, sometimes a storytent is just about enjoying a good book in the shade of a fine summer's day.