Reading nooks and built-in bookshelves helps youngsters become readers


Calgary Reads Big Book Sale supports literacy.

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Sometimes the mere presence of books on a shelf can inspire us to read, which is why Steacy Pinney wants to see reading-friendly design elements included in new home construction.

“When you have bookshelves built into a home, you might be more intentional about going and getting your own home library,” says Pinney, founder and committee chair of the 2023 Calgary Reads Big Book Sale.

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Comfortable spaces to display books coupled with good lighting help support the language skills and early literacy skills in children. In her former role as CEO of Calgary Reads, she approached new home builders about that very topic.

“Does anybody ever ask for a Harry Potter cupboard? A little place under the stairs where kids would be so excited to go and read with a book?” she asks rhetorically. “Homes had bookshelves and reading nooks in the ‘olden days’ but things have changed in the digital age.”

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Andrew MacKenzie, marketing manager for Broadview Homes, says the demand for built-ins has tapered off in recent years, with the exception of the flex room or home office space.

“People will have a desk in their office and then have beautiful maple or oak shelving along the back wall, so the office becomes their reading space,” he says. “If someone requests an alcove under the stairs with lighting, we can do that, too. It’s super easy for a builder to do that.”

Interior designer Lindsay Saelzer of Trico Homes says they design built-ins for homeowners all the time.

“I just did a big bookshelf for a home Trico built in Coach Ridge. We design around the needs, wants and budgets of our homeowners,” she says.

Bruce Harvey, creative director for Jayman Built, says it’s important to consider dedicated spaces for children to spend time reading, whether it’s a bookshelf, bean bag chairs in a bedroom or dedicated tech space for homework.

“We consider this when designing spaces meant for adults, as we are role models for children. We often place lounge chairs in front of fireplaces (in our show homes) or you will notice great rooms designed without television,” he says. “Regardless of space or budget, reading spaces can be achieved.”

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Jayman supports early literacy initiatives in Alberta and for the second year in a row is a sponsor of the Big Book Sale, which runs May 12 to 22 at the Calgary Curling Club. The builder recently held a Stuff-a-Truck event to collect donations while sponsorship dollars pay for the costs associated with holding the sale.

In 2022, Jayman Built received recognition for literacy initiatives in Alberta when it received the BILD Alberta Community Service Award.

“Jayman Built is proud to support literacy and education in our province. We know how formative reading can be for young children and young families,” says Jay Westman, chairman and CEO of Jayman Built.

The sale is its 19th year and is now the responsibility of the Rotary Club of Calgary, which was awarded stewardship when Calgary Reads disbanded in late 2022. Rotarians from across the city will be among the 1,200 volunteers managing the sale so that proceeds will go to early literacy initiatives in Calgary.

In 2022, more than 10,000 people purchased 150,000 books, raising $475,000 to fund the early literacy work of several community agencies.

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