I am the I in IWK – Nancy Edgar

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Nancy Edgar – Manager of Read to Me!

This is Nancy Edgar’s first month at the IWK, and appropriately, it’s also the time when we recognize Family Literacy Day, on Monday, January 27. Edgar is the new Manager of Read to Me!, a program that delivers a bag of books to every baby born in Nova Scotia.

“I come from a background that looks at the importance of reading from birth,” says Edgar. She feels this position was tailor-made to her work experiences and passion. Previously, she worked as Head of Children’s Services at the Fredericton Public Library, and in library fundraising before that, and she gained skills through both positions that she will bring to bear in her new role.

“A driving force of my career has always been to feel like I’m making some sort of social impact. I really believe in the importance of parents knowing the key role that they play in literacy from birth. The number one predictor of reading success later in life is having books in the home and programs like this provide that to families who might not be able to afford books otherwise.”

With two teachers as parents, Edgar was an avid reader from a young age and her favourite book as a child was Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. “I loved Anne’s imagination, her spirit, and how independent she was. My great-aunt gave the book to me when I was in kindergarten. We started reading it together and I still have the same edition that she gave me. It’s been very well-loved, with the cover held on by cracking tape, from being read so many times.”

Read to Me! is part of the IWK’s Healthy Populations and Provincial Initiatives portfolio and the Read to Me! bag is delivered at all hospitals that offer maternity services in Nova Scotia. Included in the bags are baby books, information on development, a list of recommended books for babies, and information on public libraries.

“Reading together is, firstly, a bonding experience where you feel close to each other. But it also expands vocabulary and creates a love of books. It also helps build an interest in reading and doing it voluntarily, which is usually a sign that a child will be more successful when they start school.”

“I feel very passionately about the importance of programs like this, and connecting with all parents in the community, but particularly in vulnerable populations. Ninety-five per cent of brain development happens between birth and age five, and there are very few people who come in contact with children at that age. We have this opportunity to start right from day one to give families the skills that will predict both school success and success later in life.”

Read to Me! bags are available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, and Mi’kmaq. They also have individual books in 18 different languages that can be added to a bag, as well as a sibling book and twin bags that contain different books for each baby. “We try to make sure that everyone goes home with something that they’ll enjoy reading, because then hopefully the child will get to enjoy reading too.”

If you’re looking for a book to read with your baby, Nancy suggests Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb by Al Perkins. You can also find lots more book recommendations for all ages at the Read to Me! Pinterest page.