Calgary Public Library fosters early learning with expanded Firefighter Storytime

Hero’s Journey: Chief Steve Dongworth reads to junior fire chiefs at Signal Hill Library in Calgary on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019. This was the first in a series of Firefighter Storytimes set to take place across the city from January to June. (Photo by Carmen Cundy/The Press)

In partnership with the Calgary Fire Department, the Calgary Public Library launched an expanded Firefighter Storytime across the library system on Jan. 8.

The announcement took place at Signal Hill Library and included storytime with Chief Steve Dongworth of the Calgary Fire Department and a tour of an operational fire truck.

“If we can get kids excited about reading, coming to the library, and fire safety all at the same time, there’s nothing better than that,” said Mark Asberg, the director of  service delivery for the Calgary Public Library.

The program, which will run from January to June, will consist of weekly drop-in Firefighter Storytimes at locations throughout the city.

The storytimes will include a story read by a local firefighter, and, weather permitting, a tour of a working fire engine. Each storytime will be free to all families.

Asberg said that a program like this can make all the difference in a child’s life.

“[It] gets kids excited about, not only coming to the library, but about hearing and sharing stories, about imagining different possibilities. All of these things are really important as kids move forward, and we know that it makes a difference,” he said.

According to Asberg, Firefighter Storytime began a couple of years ago when the Calgary Public Library was looking to “breathe new life” into the old Central Library.

At that time, the library partnered with the fire department for Engine 23, an early learning installation at the old library. The program gave inner-city kids a chance to put on their fire hats and explore a genuine fire truck after enjoying storytime with a firefighter.

There have been hundreds of Firefighter Storytimes at the old Central Library since its inception, and according to Asberg, tens of thousands of children have taken part.

“Up until now, [Firefighter Storytime has] mostly been at the old Central Library, and now we’re extending it to locations in all quadrants of the city.”

“The most important thing about Firefighter Storytime is that it gets children reading and handling books at a young age,” said Asberg.

“And being a part of a learning culture can make a big difference in terms of their school success as they get older.

“I think for me, that’s compelling.”

According to Dongworth, Firefighter Storytime has three goals: to promote reading at an early age, deliver safety messaging around things like fire, and needle safety, and to give the kids a chance to interact with positive role models.

“It’s a really exciting thing. The Calgary Public Library is tremendous to work with and are very enthusiastic about this as well, so it’s just a natural fit for us,” he said.

“I think it’s a really good program for us just at a very human level.”

Young And Inspired: A Calgary firefighter helps a junior fire chief into firefighter safety gear at Signal Hill Library in Calgary on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019. Firefighter Storytime is an opportunity to deliver safety messaging to young people in a fun and engaging way. (Photo by Carmen Cundy/The Press)
About Carmen Cundy 4 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Carmen Cundy is working as a writer for The Press during the 2018-19 academic year.