It’s 3:45 p.m. on a cold Tuesday afternoon at The Salvation Army’s Canon Ridge centre, and kids of all ages are streaming in the door for the After-school Zone program. Shaking off their boots and winter coats, they eagerly look around to see what they’ll get to do that day. Tuesdays are special here because the Edmonton Public Library’s epl2go Literacy Van has arrived, and the kids are excited to see librarian Kara busy setting up the books and DVDs they can check-out. They get even more excited to see a PS4 getting unpacked. It’s suddenly a busy place with a steady hum of noise.
This program is new to the Canon Ridge After-school Zone, beginning only about a month ago, but it’s been immediately popular. On this day, about 15 kids drop-by for EPL’s visit. Even a few parents come in to see what’s going on. “Of all our epl2go Literacy Van programs, there are two after-school programs we do in the city, and this is one of them,” says Kara. “It’s been getting good numbers already.”
Kara explains that the free program is designed to bring the library to areas that need it the most, promoting early literacy, digital literacy, and technology. The program usually services areas that are at least 5 kilometres from the nearest library branch, but the Canon Ridge program is an exception as the area is seen as high needs.
“Having EPL partner with our After-school Zone program has provided the young people of Canon Ridge the opportunity to explore educational resources that they would not normally have access to,” says Dayna, the Community Ministries Coordinator. “It’s also wonderful to see children signing up for library cards so they can sign out books each week to take home.”
A program like this does more than give children a safe place to go and a meal after school. Having the same opportunities as other children, including access to technology, learning and using social skills, and just playing in a safe and stress-free environment, is crucial to their development and growth.
All children in the neighbourhood are welcome to drop-in, and it is a diverse group that has arrived on this Tuesday. Different backgrounds, different faiths, different ages; all are welcome to come to The Salvation Army and just be themselves.
Canon Ridge is a residential-based satellite location of The Salvation Army’s Community Resource Centre in Edmonton. It offers many programs for the community in addition to the after-school program, including food bank pick-up, a Moms & Tots program, Senior’s Tea, and a monthly family fun night.