Library collaborates on special needs literacy initiative

The West Vancouver Memorial Library is collaborating with School District 45 and the Rotary Club of West Vancouver to support the literacy and social development of West Vancouver teens.

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A community partnership between West Vancouver Memorial Library, School District 45 and the Rotary Club of West Vancouver will make this year's weeklong celebration of family literacy activities at the Library even more special. The three are collaborating to support the literacy and social development of teens from the West Vancouver School District who have particular learning requirements and challenges.

In addition to some fun family programs at the Library on Saturday, January 26, a generous donation of approximately $1,500 from West Vancouver's Rotary Club will support another year of a unique program that was created specifically for special needs students in 2001.

Special Needs Storytime begins on January 23 and will bring 10 students to the Library on Wednesday mornings for the eight-week program. These learners have been identified by their School District 45 teachers as having the potential to benefit from literacy programs outside the classroom.

"We have been able to build a small community for these teens that is different from their home or school environment," says program facilitator, Mary Brown. "We incorporate social skills, literacy, fine motor skills, and achievement into each session."

Brown, a retired North Vancouver District teacher with a master's in special education and 15 years of experience teaching special needs students, adds that the Rotary Club's support is instrumental in helping to change lives.

"With the funding from the Rotary Club, we will be able to continue building a love of literacy that is a gift that will last these youth their entire lives."

The program is part of each student's regular school day and learning aides from the classroom accompany and assist their students. Two sessions will be held this year – one that begins in January, and another that starts in October. As these types of opportunities for youth with special needs are extremely limited, sessions are regularly filled to capacity.

"We are the only library in the Lower Mainland that offers this kid of opportunity," says Shannon Ozirny, head of the Library's Youth Department. "This program gives these teens the skills they need to become independent information seekers, pursue their personal reading interests and engage socially with one another outside a formal classroom setting."

Held annually in late January, Family Literacy Day was launched in 1999 by ABC Life Literacy Canada to raise awareness of the importance of reading and engaging in other literacy-related activities as a family.

For more information on WVML Family Day activities, visit westvanlibrary.ca, or call the Library's Youth Department at 604.925.7408.

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