Larna’s Memorial Library; Sharing Literacy and Love

Larna’s Memorial Library; Sharing Literacy and Love

Guest post; written by Sarah Algie, Centre Manager at Creswick Children's Services, VIC

I have always been an avid reader.  I would lose myself in different worlds, immersing myself in the lives of the characters, picturing the landscapes and following the adventures. 

When I had my first child, Larna Kate, it was natural for me to read to her right from the first day we arrived home from hospital.  It provided some amazing bonding time with my new baby, I would just read to her the books I was reading at the time. She spent hours snuggled up next to me listening to Bilbo’s adventures in Middle Earth, hearing the excitement as Arthur pulled the sword from the stone, listening to the myths and legends of the Celts and Vikings all whilst listening to the rhythm of my words, to different tones of my voice, laying the foundations for her developing language skills.

The years from birth to age five are the most critical for building the emergent literacy skills that come before learning to read and write. It is vitally important for a child’s later academic achievements that these learning blocks are laid as early as possible and continued to be developed for life long learning. Research shows that the signs of vulnerability in literacy development are already evident from school entry. Children who experience early difficulties learning to read can struggle to catch up to their peers and it is more likely that the gap in ability will widen as schooling progresses. 

My passion for books was passed on to my daughter and our daily routine would revolve around this shared love. At around 10 months old, after breaky every morning, Larna would bring me her selections and we would sit down and read. There were always her favourites, ‘The Owl and the Pussy Cat’, ‘Slinky Malinki’ and ‘Guess how much I love You’ as well as other, random choices. Twice a week we would walk to the local library for their Storytime and borrow new books to take home and consume.

On the 19th of March 2005, my world was altered forever. I found Larna unconscious on the floor, not breathing, no heart beat and turning blue. I rang the paramedics and started CPR on her tiny little body. She was eventually flown to the Royal Children’s Hospital where it was discovered she had a tumour growing in her heart that had never been diagnosed, that had never caused her any issues until it got too big for her heart to handle. Unfortunately, both her lungs had collapsed, so despite the CPR and work the paramedics did, she simply did not get any oxygen to her brain. Larna started having major seizures and her organs shut down. On the 24th March, I decided to switch off the machine and say goodbye to my beautiful baby, she was 10 and a half months old. All my friends and family gathered to say goodbye and everyone read her a book, one last time and then she was gone.

I have just launched a community library at Creswick Children’s Services in memory of my Larna and her love of books. This will allow our families to access books daily, helping to develop literacy and language skills in the children and their families. It's also a terrific way of encouraging our families to take some time out with their children, have a snuggle and read to them. With today’s busy lifestyles these moments are often forgotten or put off for other things and it is such a vital time in the learning development of children. 

Our library, which will be based on an honesty system, will allow us to take a pivotal role in providing lifelong learning skills to the children in our care. We have been lucky enough to have all our books donated to us, so we are also recycling unwanted books and allowing better access to these amazing resources for our families.  Moving forward, we will also be installing a library at the front of our building, which will give our families and the wider community 24 hours a day 7 days a week access to a variety of books.

After just one day of having our library open, I had a huge amount of positive feedback from almost all our families. It has enhanced our relationships and brought joy into their children’s lives. Watching the children’s whole faces light up when they realise they can look at and borrow the books is phenomenal and a fitting memorial for my little Larna.

Posted: 11/15/2017 10:12:48 AM by
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