The investment from The Calgary Foundation and an anonymous donor will help establish Calgary Foundation Early Learning Centres at Saddletowne, Signal Hill, Forest Lawn and Crowfoot Libraries in Calgary Public Libraries.
There is a now a runway on the floor at the Saddletowne Library meant for kids to run and play on, and the mess and noise that comes with it, is encouraged not forbidden.
It’s part of the Calgary Public Library’s Early Learning Centre, which could be confused with an indoor playground loaded with hands-on activity centres.
“Reaching children, aged birth to five, sets the course for their future,” said Paul McIntyre Royston, President and CEO of the Calgary Public Library Foundation. “This is not a shush place. That is very deliberate.”
The idea behind Early Learning Centres is that learning and play go hand in hand.
“We know that play is a big part of building literacy skills for children,” said Kristen Duke, Service Design Lead with the Calgary Public Library.
McIntyre Royston says children get hooked on first coming here to play and before you know it, they are picking up books, taking them home and coming back for more.
“The families are spending more time with us. It’s a lot easier for parents because it’s free,” McIntyre Royston said.
“They will spend some time rummaging about some stuff and in this case there’s a runway, they are going to run. And then they sit down with their caregiver or mom or dad and they read. And the hyper kid runs around some more and then they sit down and then they read. And then they take the books home with them,” McIntyre Royston said.
Musu Dadi comes to the Saddletowne Library with her children on a regular basis.
“It’s very important because this is where the early education starts and we read to the children of course. They love it,” Dadi said.
“Reading expands their brains. There’s a lot they can learn. They can go to places that they haven’t been by reading. Reading is a gateway to a lot of things and it gives you different perspectives,” Dadi said.
While the chatter from the Early Learning Centre is just part of the whole package, library staff insist there are quiet areas for people to enjoy the silence.
“Every single child needs to be able to walk in and imagine and grow and learn. To have a whimsy, to have play in their lives. This stuff is unbelievably important,” Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi said at the opening Saturday.
The $1 million dollar grant will fund four new Early Learning Centres at Calgary libraries that will be open by the end of the year. The goal is to have an Early Learning Centre at all of Calgary’s public libraries.