By Kimberly Taylor, November 30 2023—
The Little Red Reading House was established in 2017 by Calgary Reads to promote early childhood literacy and get books into the hands of children. When Calgary Reads was dissolved this year they gifted the House to the Owerko Centre, a multidisciplinary research hub. In an interview with the Gauntlet, Dr. Susan Graham explained what the House provides for children and families.
“The Little Red Reading House is a reading place where families can come, book time, explore a number of wonderful reading nooks, get some literacy coaching and leave with a book in hand,” said Graham.
In partnership with Alberta’s Children’s Hospital Research Institute, the Owerko Centre is carrying on the activities already established and is developing a research strategy to augment those activities.
“What we’re doing with the gift of the House is we’re developing a research strategy that goes along with it,” said Graham. “Our goal is to develop this house into a field station essentially for the University of Calgary, [which] helps us conduct research right in the community where children and families are.”
Improving literacy is the main goal of the House. Literacy is more than just being able to read, but also the confidence to engage with texts, and the ability to understand, interpret, analyze, communicate, and create. Graham explained that a child’s literacy is a major predictor for long-term outcomes such as school and work success, but also quality of life including mental health and positive social relationships. Graham highlighted that books can also help families discuss difficult topics.
“Literacy and books can provide a really interesting and meaningful way of communication for children and families,” said Graham. “For example, you can imagine a situation like grief, where a parent might be struggling to find the right way to talk to their child about grief. Books can be that mechanism. They can be that vehicle. They can start conversations for children and families.”
Graham said that one of the goals of the Owerko Centre at the Little Red Reading House is to develop knowledge mobilization strategies, which is the movement of knowledge gathered from primary research into programs and practices that directly benefit the community.
“So some people estimate that research can sometimes take up to 17 years to get from the lab or the university into the community and we would like to speed up that process,” said Graham. “We would very much like to be a nexus or focal point for community agencies who might have research questions about early child development and literacy. ”
The House provides unique opportunities for families in the community, for students looking to volunteer and for researchers. Graham said that there will be ongoing development and new opportunities as the research strategy is developed with the community. For more information, students can visit the House’s website or Instagram page.