NorWest Community Health Centres launches Little Free Library
To celebrate Family Literacy day and increase access to books in the East End community, NorWest Community Health Centres launched its own Little Free Library on January 25, 2019. Little Free Libraries have been around for many years now and can be found all over the world, including several neighborhoods here in Thunder Bay. While they are small in size and don’t offer nearly the selection that our public libraries do, Little Free Libraries offer individuals access to books without requiring a library card or paying over dues, and books are accessible almost any time of the day. Folks of any ago can take a book or leave a book in the library and someone else can pick it up and enjoy it.
Literacy can be described as the ability to read and write. Health literacy is more complex. It includes the ability to read and write, plus the ability to process and understand health information. Obviously by improving literacy, we improve health literacy as a result. Health Quality Ontario identifies three skills to promote health literacy: being able to read and write; being able to understand numbers; and being able to ask questions and express yourself. We are involved in projects that increase basic literacy such at the NorWest Community Little Library to improve overall health literacy.
Since launching our Little Library, the initiative has been well received and folks are grabbing books on the go. The goal of our Little Library is to increase access to reading materials in the neighborhood, to clients and program participants of our clinic, but also to create an opportunity for community engagement. NorWest Community Health Centres will be relying on our neighbours, community partners, friends and patients to help us keep the library stocked with books and other reading material.
The NorWest Community Little Library was designed and built by the team at Wood Werks, a worker co-op run by St. Joesph’s Care Group that provides employment opportunities and services to clients living with mental illness and addictions. The library is situated in one of NWCHC’s program rooms, but the goal is to move it outdoors to the Shoe Maker’s Garden come spring so that books can be accessed 24/7. We also received a very generous donation of books from Frontier College, a national charitable literacy organization, to help us crease literacy in the city.
NorWest Community Health Centres has appointed a volunteer Librarian, who will be maintaining an inventory of the book collection, and restocking it each week. The link between good health and strong literacy skills is a strong one. Individuals with low literacy skills, are likely to be in worse health than those who read well. One of the best ways to increase the likelihood that someone will read more is to make reading materials more accessible. Approximately 61% of low-income families do not have any age-appropriate books for their children at home. As a community health centre, we are trying to increase the number of homes that have access to books and age appropriate reading material and support our communities’ literacy goals and needs.
To find out more about the various programs NorWest Community Health Centres offers, visit their Facebook at NorWest Community Health Centres or their website www.norwestchc.org
Michelle Kolobutin is a Health Promoter at NorWest Community Health Centres.
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