Storysacks Shine Light Back on Reading

Crafted bags promote literacy among kids and families

It seems like it’s hard to imagine even the youngest generation of kids today without an electronic device of some sort in their hands, whether it’s a smartphone, tablet, or a video game controller.

A workshop held last Saturday, November 3 at the Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Outlook just might help put a spotlight back on reading and get kids more excited about books and family-time activities.

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The daylong event explained the concept of what’s called a Storysack, and then those who signed up for the workshop dove right in and began creating one over the course of the day.

A Storysack is, for all intents and purposes, pretty much exactly what it sounds like; an actual sack that contains books, crafts, games, and family-friendly activities that help promote reading and literacy among virtually any age group.  They can help the youngest of children learn to read or perhaps fine-tune their comprehension skills, or even help adults who may be trying to learn English as a second language.

Carmen Ledding, a Family Literacy Coordinator with the West Central Literacy Committee, spearheaded the workshop that saw volunteers, daycare workers, school teachers and ESL instructors (English as a Second Language) take part, learning the history and philosophy behind Storysacks before everyone grouped together and went to work in actually crafting one together.

The workshop was a collaborative partnership between the West Central Literacy Committee and the Saskatchewan Literacy Network, represented by Marilyn Stearns.

Workshop attendees got right to it putting together the contents of a Storysack, such as Outlook resident and longtime volunteer Darlene Hovdestad, who was on sewing detail. - Derek Ruttle

The goal behind Storysacks is to help promote reading, whether it’s at home or within one’s own community.  To do that, the contents of a ‘sack’ help appeal to everyone with their variety.

“A Storysack is typically a bag of activities, and it includes a fiction book, a non-fiction book, games and other activities that reinforce the skills that families learn together when they read those books,” said Carmen.  “The book we’re using today is called ‘Move Over, Rover’, and so we’ve got people making a matching game with letters that might match a dog or a house, and there are people making puppets, and then someone on the sewing machine making the actual sack.  All of these activities work really well for people who are not only working with young children, but people who don’t have English as their first language, so they’re really good activities to do together to help reinforce that love of reading.”

Storysacks can be used by everyone because that’s precisely who they’re for – everyone.  The movement to have them in as many communities as possible is growing with events such as the workshops that highlight what they can do for people.

“They can be used by anyone – teachers with their classrooms, or families with their young children, or adults who are learning English as a second language,” said Ledding.  “With the West Central Literacy Committee, we’re based out of Rosetown but we service the whole West Central region.  I work out of Great Plains College there, and I have a number of staff there, but we have the group in Outlook working on making their own and utilizing them as well.  Right now, three of the primary school teachers use a lot of our Storysacks, and soon they’ll be able to do them themselves.”

The dedicated group in Outlook was hard at work putting together the contents of a Storysack, with handfuls of people breaking off to concentrate on different aspects of it.  Carmen said the workshop was about coming together to put just one together, but hopefully it planted the seed to help create more of them in the immediate future for those in Outlook who may need them.

“We’re working together as a team to make one whole sack,” she said.  “It’s like our initial or demo one, but after this they’ll be able to make other ones.”

As for how the Storysacks can be accessed, Ledding says that those details are typically worked out by their creators, so it will have to be decided by the group in Outlook how someone can start enjoying the one created on Saturday, whether perhaps it can be signed out from the local library or even the church, but it’s expected that a system will be in place very soon.

To Ledding and Stearns, perhaps the most underlying benefit of a Storysack is their ability to bring families together.

“Well for one, it’s an activity that isn’t smartphone-based, tablet-based or TV-based, and it reinforces that love of reading again,” said Carmen.  “You can do it as groups and in families.  They also include a recording of the actual book, so for instance, for parents who struggle with reading or if kids want to do it on their own, they have the opportunity to do that.”

“We know that parents are a child’s first and most important teacher, so Storysacks is a tool that’s developed in community for community,” said Marilyn.  “It provides a tool to give to parents to help kids and parents together to interact with these books.”

© The Outlook

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