Contributed by Michelle Ball, Volunteer Coordinator at The Redwood
What is more magical than spending a summer evening outside with a good book?
Two summer evenings with good books! Thanks to our friends at Frontier College and their “Reading Tent” program, the children living at The Redwood enjoyed just that.
Magical evening #1 began with volunteers from Frontier College and The Redwood setting up a tent right in the middle of our courtyard. Children were amazed to see their space so transformed! Frontier College brought books and games for all ages to foster an environment of learning that was both fun and social. The evening involved many different ways of learning: reading one-one-one, an impromptu dance party, and a silly hat-making craft.
On Magical evening #2 Reading Tent was set up in our playroom, because the courtyard had been temporarily taken over by raccoons! We were joined that evening by a family who had just arrived at The Redwood the day before. Little by little, the mom and her two kids inched their way into the busy room. Before long, the youngest, a girl of 5 years old, spied one of the “tiny” tents we had set up, and was happily propping up stuffed elephants and a giraffe for a little private reading time. Volunteers helped her choose books to take into the tiny tent, and they patiently read together to their audience of plush toys!
“The purpose of the reading tent program is to provide a place where children, parents and caregivers can share the joy of reading, books, and storytelling… Reading with children during the summer is especially important as it helps to reduce the ‘learning loss’ that occurs when children do not have the routines of school.” (For more information, see: https://www.frontiercollege.ca/)
But for the kids, its just plain fun!
Reading Tent evenings always end with the children choosing a brand new book to keep. This is particularly meaningful because many of the kids have had to leave their toys and books behind when they come to the shelter. As the kids and moms said goodbye and thank you to the volunteers at the end of the last night, the little 5 year-old girl approached one of our Resident Services Counsellors. She gave her a big hug, and whispered to her, “this was a great party.”
The summer can be a hard time for kids to live in a shelter. Thanks to Frontier College, kids at The Redwood will have stories to tell their friends when they return to school about the magical evenings when a giant tent appeared in their home.