Surrey Libraries youth services manager Sara Grant (right), who is B.C.’s Council of the Federation Literacy Award winner for 2018, is pictured at the “Taan’s Moons: A Haida Moon Story” art exhibit and celebration at City Centre Library in 2017, with Surrey Libraries board chair Karen Reid Sidhu (left) and chief librarian Surinder Bhogal. (submitted photo: Surrey Libraries)

‘Champion for literacy’ in Surrey checks out a national award

Librarian Sara Grant intends to give $500 prize to one Surrey Libraries program

SURREY — Sara Grant says she’s “incredibly honoured” to receive a national literacy award for her work with Surrey Libraries, but she really hopes to share the recognition with others in the organization.

On Wednesday (July 18), Grant was named British Columbia’s winner of the Council of the Federation Literacy Award, created in 2004 and given annually to 13 people — one in each province and territory in Canada – for “outstanding achievement, innovative practice and excellence in literacy.”

Grant, who lives in the Fleetwood area, works as manager of youth services for Surrey Libraries, from an office at its City Centre administration building.

“I have great respect and appreciation for a province that would recognize something as important as championing literacy in community,” Grant said Wednesday in a phone call from Sun River, Oregon, while vacationing with family.

“I would also really feel that I don’t accept the award on behalf of myself, because it takes an entire library, really, to deliver that kind of service. I have an incredible team that I work with, and would really like to accept it on behalf of all of the children’s staff at the Surrey Libraries and, in fact, all libraries in B.C., because we’re all doing the same kind of work.”

In a Ministry of Education release, Grant is described as “a longtime children’s librarian and champion for literacy in Surrey” who has developed innovative programming and expanded the reach of the library through community partnerships.

“She supported a team of over 30 children’s library staff, as they serve more than 100,000 children and their families,” the release notes. “She has established several successful programs, including Daddy Storytime, a program that supports men to take a more active role in their children’s early literacy, and an art exhibit and celebration based on the book Taan’s Moons: A Haida Moon Story.”

Grant’s award comes with a certificate signed by Premier John Horgan, a medallion and $500 cash, which she says she’ll donate to Surrey Libraries’ Read to Baby program, an initiative that introduces parents of newborns to the benefits of early and frequent reading to infants.

“We accept donations for that program, which is not publicly funded,” Grant explained. “Kits are given out to people, a bag with a book, a CD of music. We’d like to give out more of those bags.”

Grant began her career with Surrey Libraries in 1995, first at the Fleetwood branch that was being built at the time.

“I was a children’s librarian, and it was probably the best job a children’s librarian could ever have,” she recalled. “It was opening a brand new library in a community and having people discover a library for maybe the first time, really getting immersed in, ‘What are storytimes, and how do we work with home-schooling families and how do we buy graphic novel collections for public libraries,’ things like that.”

She later moved to Guildford library before taking a full-time role in Libraries administration.

For more than two decades, Grant’s community literacy work has helped thousands of families connect and develop important skills that lay the groundwork for fulfillment and achievement, said Rob Fleming, Minister of Education, in announcing her as B.C.’s Council of the Federation Literacy Award winner for 2018.

“I want to congratulate Sara on earning this well-deserved recognition, and wish her and Surrey Libraries continued success as they work to provide important services to families.”

In B.C., Decoda Literacy Solutions provides resources, training and funds to support community-based literacy and learning initiatives in more than 400 communities.

“Sara is an outstanding example of so many literacy champions in B.C. who are dedicated to helping children, youth, families, adults and seniors attain the important literacy skills necessary for success in today’s world,” said Jacquie Taylor, the organization’s executive director. “We heartily congratulate Sara on this recognition.”

Surrey Libraries welcomes around 2.5 million visits to its nine branches each year, with an additional two million plus visits to our online resources, according to the organization.

Grant says her award “really acknowledges the roll of public libraries in lives of community and strengthening families and supporting them in their goals to be more than the love of just books and enjoying books and stories, but really connecting them to each other in the community.

“A library is one of the last places where people can access information in a completely free way,” she added. “It’s not only free to use a public library, which are freely accessible across the entire city, but they’re incredibly welcoming and inclusive. And people come with what they want — we’re not there to sell them anything. Like, they come with their interests, their needs, and then we support them to find that, whatever is their passion and gives them oxygen.”

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