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Pitching in: Book publishers and literacy advocates provide free books for children

The Globe and Mail 11 Jul 2020

PAUL WALDIE pwaldie@globeandmail.com


From left: The Children’s Book Bank supervisor Nina Cabaguio, Food Banks Canada chief development officer Tania Little, First Book Canada executive director Tom Best and Canadian Children’s Literacy Foundation CEO Ariel Siller. The organizations are among a group of more than 20 that have worked to give children access to reading material during the pandemic.


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The organizers: A coalition of book publishers, literacy advocates and Food Banks Canada

The project: Providing 130,000 free books for children Ariel Siller has been a passionate advocate for child literacy for years and she knew that the COVID-19 pandemic would be difficult for children as libraries, daycares and schools shut down.

Ms. Siller is the chief executive of the Canadian Children’s Literacy Foundation and a few weeks ago she reached out to Tania Little at Food Banks Canada to see whether they could find a way to work together. “I spoke to her about the opportunity to leverage their network of food banks and we thought this was a great chance to collaborate,” Ms. Siller recalled from her home in Toronto.

The conversation led to the creation of a coalition of more than 20 literacy organizations and book publishers called Read On Canada! The publishers – including Penguin Random House Canada, Scholastic Canada and Soleil de Minuit – have donated 130,000 books that will be distributed through food banks across Canada with an emphasis on regions that have had high rates of COVID-19 infection.

The group, which also includes ABC Life Literacy Canada, Calgary Reads and The Children’s Book Bank, has also developed a series of online games and e-books. The books are aimed at children under 10 and they include titles in English, French and Cree.

“We realized that there was going to be a really big gap in what was available to children this summer,” Ms. Siller added.

“What we wanted to do was ensure kids have fun reading material to help them escape to places that they couldn’t travel to at this moment.”

The project will run throughout the summer and the coalition is looking at other ways to help families build literacy skills at home.

Ms. Siller said she has been amazed at how quickly the group came together. “For me it’s really inspiring to see what partnerships and coalitions can achieve together,” she said. “And how the passion and focus on supporting families during this time has driven such a high level of engagement.”

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