Today is Raise-a-Reader Day in Prince Edward Island
Raise-a-Reader Day contributes funds to the P.E.I. Literary Alliance. The Guardian and The Journal Pioneer are organizing the Postmedia Raise-a-Reader Day where 200 people will be donating their time to raise money between the hours of 7-9 a.m. this morning. Volunteers will show up at coffee shops and other popular locations right across the province exchanging newspapers for donations for literacy.
© Guardian photo by Jim Day
P.E.I. Literacy Alliance program coordinator Amanda Beazley says the alliance’s Book Bank is proving so popular it is difficult to keep up with the demand for books.
The greatest value of this special bank is in each withdrawal.
Children are the customers and the “currency’’ being removed from the bank is books.
Following the lead of a successful initiative in Calgary, the P.E.I. Literacy Alliance established a Book Bank in February 2012 at the Food Bank in Charlottetown.
Early last year, a message was sent out on FaceBook calling for gently used children’s books to stock the shelves of the new Book Bank. The alliance was “deluged’’ with books. Hundreds and hundreds were dropped off.
The books, much to the delight of P.E.I. Literacy Alliance program coordinator Amanda Beazley, are being snatched up almost as fast as they pour in. In the first 19 months of the program, Island children have taken home roughly 2,500 free books.
“I know the kids look forward to it every week ... the first thing the kids want to do (at the Food Bank) is pick out their book,’’ says Beazley. “They pick out a couple of books for that week to take home.’’
Catherine O’Bryan, executive director of the alliance, says the Book Bank has been set up at the Food Bank because the clients here can use help to get books into their home.
“Books are expensive,’’ says O’Bryan. “They’re in there getting food. Because they can’t afford their food, they are not going to be buying books.’’
Beazley notes there is a direct correlation between the number of books in a home and how well the children in that home do at school.
She knows the Book Bank is meeting a demand. She also knows the recipients of the service are appreciative.
Beazley put a comment board up at the Book Bank in early July. The feedback has been uplifting.
The general theme is that the P.E.I. Literacy Alliance is pretty darn awesome for providing the valuable service.
One child wrote: “It’s the best ever. I love reading books.’’
An adult observed: “Such a terrific idea — teaching my six-year-old about sharing and giving as well as the joy of reading. Minds need to be fed as surely as bodies.’’
O’Bryan is heartened by the image of many children getting their hands and eyes on a variety of books that may quickly become cherished possessions.
“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.’’ Emilie Buchwald
“I like to imagine there are little, tiny libraries under beds in some of these homes from the families that come to the Food Bank and take the books home,’’ says O’Bryan.
Mike MacDonald, general manager of the Upper Room Hospitality Ministry that oversees the Food Bank and the Soup Kitchen in Charlottetown, lauds the P.E.I. Literacy Alliance for the initiative.
“It’s a great addition for us,’’ he says. “It seems like every time people come in looking for food ... they are in there having a look at the books. There are not too many people that walk away without at least one book.’’
MacDonald adds while children see the books as a treat, adults realize the Book Bank is really offering much more.
“I think people know the importance of literacy and what it can do throughout their lifetime,’’ says MacDonald.
“I feel like we are really doing the groundwork of promoting literacy, not just for kids but for the adults too — for the people who are looking after them, who are bringing books to life in their home,’’ said Beazley.
“We’re really encouraging their children to read and the grownups to read to their kids and make that a part of their every day life. That’s just going to follow them their whole lives.’’
Islanders are encouraged to donate children’s books to keep the Book Bank shelves brimming with plenty of offerings. Gently used children’s books can be dropped off at the P.E.I. Literacy Alliance in the Sherwood Business Centre at 161 St. Peters Road in Charlottetown.
Or, if someone has a nice load of children’s books that they would like the alliance to pick up, give them a call at 368-1810.
While Beazley is confident the Book Bank at the Food Bank will have a very long, well, shelf life, she would like to see the initiative expand. She would like to hear from people (call Beazley at 368-1810) interested in spearheading a book bank program in their own community.
“And we will give them a hand, of course, and get them started,’’ she says.