Turning the page through a love of books

On the shores of Lake Huron, reading program opens doors to a better life

Reading opens doors to facts and fiction, to places unknown, to the real and the imaginary. But for one mom on Ontario’s Saugeen First Nation, those doors were closed—because she couldn’t read.

As she watched her kids get absorbed in reading’s world of possibilities, she would think: “That will never be me.” However, she’s since learned to read through the Family Reading Program—and now, she thinks differently. She’s determined to build a better life for herself and her children, continuing her education as a result.

“The program gave that mom the resources and encouragement to start reading, and she has taken herself far and beyond any of my expectations for the program,” says Melissa Root, the Saugeen First Nation’s librarian.

Through the support of Enbridge’s Ontario Green Energy team, a love for books is growing in this small Aboriginal community near Owen Sound, Ontario.

Once an old, derelict schoolhouse, the Saugeen First Nation Library is thriving and is the talk of the town, with the Family Reading Program increasing foot traffic – and literacy rates.

A recent $20,000 donation by Enbridge is supplying books for 20 to 30 families each month through the 2015-16 school year. Families are encouraged to take the books home for a four-month period, and read a little each night at their own pace while spending quality time together.

Considered one of the most important programs in the community, its benefits are immeasurable.

“It creates better long-term health, overall increased family literacy, and better at-home communication,” explains Root, who notes that reading also increases creativity and problem-solving skills.

Saugeen First Nation families that participated in a similar program recently supported by Enbridge, and who once identified themselves as non-readers, now use the library regularly. Enbridge’s $10,000 donation to the 2014 Homework and Reading Incentive Program placed over 300 books in more than 100 homes, in addition to assisting more than 60 children and youth with homework help.

“This program wouldn’t exist without Enbridge funding,” explains Root. “Libraries, especially First Nation libraries, are very underfunded. There are now less than 50 First Nation libraries in all of Canada, and that number is shrinking every year.”

Enbridge invests regularly in programs that enhance quality of life in communities near our projects and operations. As the owner of the 190-megawatt Ontario Wind Power Project—which generates enough electricity to serve the needs of 57,000 homes—Enbridge donates $70,000 annually to communities in nearby Bruce County.

“It’s important to give back to communities near our operations,” says Usman Bhatti, site supervisor at the Ontario Wind Power Project.

“We are proud to sponsor a program that encourages families to read,” he adds. “A significant portion of the community’s population is young children, and this program is helping to build a healthy and vibrant future generation.”