Jen Holm and her son Truman, 2, from Calgary were in Sidney visiting family when they happened upon the Open Air Library in Beacon Park. They settled down for a good read. (Steven Heywood/News staff)

Sidney Open Air Library promotes literacy

What better way to enjoy a quiet morning than with a good book, out in the fresh air.

That’s one of the ideas behind the Open Air Library this summer in Sidney’s Beacon Park. Hosted by Saanich Peninsula Literacy, the Open Air Library starts with suitcases full of books, magazines and more — and ends with people enjoying a good read in the park.

Outreach Co-ordinator for Saanich Peninsula Literacy Shantael Sleight says the program began two years ago, based on a year-‘round literacy event in New York.

“Here, we thought of putting it into Beacon Park, a beautiful place, having books available for all ages to come read,” she said, adding summer is typically when reading levels go down.

“We promote it far and wide … and encourage parents to come out with their children and enjoy the sun and read. Adults comes down, seniors from the SHOAL Centre come down.”

Sleight added a great addition to their program has been the Town of Sidney’s placing of some 50 new chairs in the park. It helps create a larger audience, she said.

The books themselves, which arrive on site in suitcases and are placed on blankets in front of the band shell, are typically donated. Sleight said Peninsula Connections for Early Childhood 1000 by Five program has a recycling program. It collects books from all around the community and local schools. Saanich Peninsula Literacy also purchases second hand books and raises money ad seeks grants to keep them in reading material. She added people can take a book home to read from the Open Air Library, and return it later — or bring in a book or two that they would like to donate to the program.

Sleight added they will be doing a few feature events this summer, which started with their opening day on July 4 which drew around 100 people. One to watch for, she continued, is a planned BookSmack, with help from the local libraries on the Peninsula.

“A panel of four people from the community … will stand up and tell you why their book is the best in 10 seconds or less. They have to speak fast … it gets pretty funny … and they pass it along to the next person. They get the crowd involved.”

That takes place Tuesday, August 15 between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m.

Other events this summer are: Cookies and Comics, July 18 and Coffee and Crosswords on August 8.

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