By Alex Wilks, Times contributor
Langley Literacy Network (LLN) is inviting residents to take two hours out of an upcoming weekend (Dec. 17 to 19) to come out and volunteer during the annual Wrap-a-Read days event.
For the past 15 years, LLN has been committed to providing literacy programs for adults, families and youth in the Langley area and their yearly Wrap-A-Read program has given children the gift of literacy, explained Kailey Erickson, literacy outreach coordinator with LLN.
“Our volunteers are the heart of our program and it is because of their contributions that the program is so successful,” Erickson said.
“All of our volunteers believe in the power of literacy to transform lives.”
An event that started off small – only providing books to babies and toddlers – has grown into a fundraiser that serves an average of 1,700 children per year.
Naturally, that means more volunteers are always needed, she added.
Last year 41 volunteers donated 156 hours of their time helping families select the perfect books for their child’s reading levels and interests.
“Access to books is an important part of developing literacy skills, and this program helps children have access to books,” she noted.
Community donations and sponsorship from Langley Christmas Bureau, Fraser Valley Regional Library, and the City of Langley have allowed LLN to provide every family registered with the bureau a brand-new book to gift wrap for their children.
“We know there is something special in having a book of your own to keep, and we want to make sure all children have that experience,” Erickson said.
“You can see that physical books still hold a really important place in people’s heart.”
The LLN accepts cash donations and puts the money towards children’s books that are purchased at a discounted rate through the regional library.
“Every dollar donated makes a greater impact. That’s why it makes more sense for us to purchase books directly rather than accept book donations,” said Erickson.
Since the books are purchased by the LLN volunteers, the Wrap-A-Read program is able to offer a greater variety of books for the families to choose from, including books that meet a range of interests and age abilities.
“We provide books for all the children, newborn babies to 18-year-olds… and while at the same time helping families give gifts to their children at Christmas,” she added.
Most families who are registered with the bureau are local residents with lower income that are in need of a little extra support around the holiday season, Erickson explained.
“We want to encourage literacy in all children and by connecting with families [that are] registered with the Langley Christmas Bureau, we know we are directly reaching children whose families may not be able to afford to buy new books.”
Yet, the most rewarding part for Erickson is taking the time to speak with the families and see how excited these parents are when they are able to choose the perfect book for their children.
“When they tell us how much their child will love getting a certain book, or when they pick out a picture book for their preschooler and tell us how they are really looking forward to getting to read it together with them. That feels special that we are helping families have those moments,” she said.
“I’m glad that as an organization we can support families by providing them with new books at Christmas to help encourage literacy development at home.”
Wrap-A-Read days will be taking place at the Langley Christmas Bureau (19860 Langley Bypass) between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Dec. 17 through 19.
Anyone who is interested in volunteering, contact Erickson at firstname.lastname@example.org.