I’m delighted to be writing a post in my new role as Executive Director of The Children’s Book Bank, located on Berkeley Street in downtown Toronto. For me, having the opportunity to lead this wonderful organization is, no overstatement, a dream come true. The really short version of why that’s the case is this: I’ve always been a reader, always deeply connected to the reading experience, and have always believed that the act of reading is truly human: it is joyful, engaged with the other, civil (as opposed to the merely polite) and genuinely empathetic. Honesty moment: I preferred reading books to completing school work, still prefer reading fiction to non-fiction, and yearned for the chance to share my joy of reading with others. Thankfully, it’s worked out for me. Eventually, I made the connection between reading and being successful at school, completing my doctoral studies at OISE/UT in 2005. I started teaching English way back in 1988; it was a vocation which propelled me and my family to living in rural New York state, Beijing during Tiananmen Square, Montreal, Hong Kong and, finally, Peterborough, Ontario where I was fortunate enough to instruct hard-working and eager Bachelor of Education students at Trent University from 2004 until 2012. A professional highlight for me before coming to the CBB is, without a doubt, my recent visit to Tanzania where I watched and learned from the dedicated educators at the Mwanga Secondary School for Girls outside Arusha. At the heart of the school’s mission, as at the CBB, is a strong belief in supporting the independent agency of every child to succeed as a learner, a reader and, ultimately, as an informed citizen of their communities, close to home and further afield.
Over the past several years the students at First Nations School of Toronto, which is a specialized school in the Toronto District School Board located at Dundas St. and Broadview Ave., have been able to visit the Children’s Bookbank. Each experience walking over to the book bank has been an exciting time for the students as they are emergent readers and always look forward to the opportunity to scour the bookshelves looking for books of interest to take home.
As the grade 1/2 teacher at First Nations School, I really value this experiential excursion because it reinforces the importance of reading, in addition to the joy it brings. Each visit begins with preselected read alouds, which always peak the interest of students, as they are well written books that are rich and engaging. Personally I find the opportunity to listen to a great read a bonding experience for the students and myself as they witness how for those fifteen minutes nothing else matters expect what is being heard and experienced in our imagination.
On behalf of our school community we would like to acknowledge the cherished gift we have each year to visit the Children’s Bookbank multiple times. As an educator I will continue to commit time in our school year to visit the friendly staff at the book bank seeing that picking up a book is often not part of the students daily routine in this age of rapid technology development, nor is it always possible due to financial constraints to have access to a plethora of great literature at home.
-Malia Mitha, Grade 1/2 Teacher, First Nations School of Toronto
MY 10 YEARS WITH THE CHILDREN’S BOOK BANK
BY NABHAN RAHMAN, AGE 9
My very first visit to the book bank was in a 4
wheeler (Nope, not a car- it was a stroller) around the early 2008.
Ok, Ok. That does not N-O-T mean, I couldn’t walk, the fact was, the book bank was far away for my tiny little steps. On that day I met two REAL fairies (Kim, and Jane) –the book fairies. With their magic dust of kindness, care, and love they bound me to come, every day for the next 3 months. You can guess that I was about 1.5 yrs old. While coming back on the first day, my mom heard “woof, woof, meow, rabbit.” She searched for the noise, and came to the front of my stroller, found a serious reader! That means, the book bank already created an avid reader.
7 years later it’s 2015 and still the children’s book bank is a wonder to me. Who? Why? How could a lawyer sacrifice her whole career? What is the joy of giving?
It is a museum, it is a library, and it is an inspiration for me. All this helped me make up my mind to have a taste of giving.
Finally, I made up my mind in Oct. 2015 to donate Children’s Book Bank, $5 every month for the rest of my life.
From then, I am eagerly waiting for the months to come, and go.
“Thanks to an exciting partnership with The Toronto Children’s Book Bank, Macaulay has been providing children the opportunity to own their own books, free of charge! The initiative is known as “The Book Nook”. For the past five years, Macaulay has been distributing 1,000 books a month to our young clients, throughout all of the Macaulay program sites: Ontario Early Years Centres, Child Care Centres, Homework Clubs, home visiting program etc.
This initiative has reached thousands of families in the north/west region of the city. In 2014, Macaulay served more than 7,000 children and youth, and their families and caregivers. 35% of these children had a significant special need or were considered at risk due to environmental factors such as poverty and neighbourhood violence. 23% of these families had an income below $15,000. Therefore they would not likely be able to buy their own books.
Giving families quality books to keep is a powerful tool to support the literacy message. We encourage families to read with their children every day, and to regularly visit their local libraries. When children have books of their own, they have a greater likelihood of becoming stronger and enthusiastic readers later in life.
In 2015, we received this letter from a parent whose children were receiving Speech and Language services from Macaulay and were therefore able to access the books from The Children’s Book Bank:
‘My own three children have been blessed to receive Speech therapy…., and we have many a book from the Macaulay Book Nook. The kids are always excited to rush in and pick out a new “friend”, and are always sad when a therapy block ends, and their visits to the Book Nook are over.'”
Early Literacy Specialist
Ontario Early Years
Macaulay Child Development Centre
Our Book of the Month (BOM) for October is “Coraline” by Neil Gaiman
The Book of the Month selection for October is the strange and scary tale of Coraline, an inquisitive girl that discovers another sinister world within her home. Coraline is full of spooky imagery and creepy atmosphere, perfect for chilly October evenings. Join us in reading this award winning fantasy-horror book.
1) Write us a review (#BookBankReads) and we will post it to our blog
2) Tweet your thoughts on our choice to @bookbankcanada using the hashtag #bookbankreads
3) Follow @thechildrensbookbank on Instagram and post a picture of yourself reading using the hashtag #bookbankreads
After receiving 3 brand-new Mr. Men box sets in a donation this Fall, we decided they were so special that we would host a contest that would have these sets as prizes. We developed a simple premise, draw you favourite Mr. Men or Little Miss character. Alternatively, children could make up their own character …and we were shocked by how many did just that! Creative little children came up with Mr. Book Bank, Little Miss Nerd, Little Miss Frame, Little Miss Hats, Litte Miss Reader, Mr. Tough, and Mr. Witty.
Little Miss Reader
Mr. Book Bank
Some of the other highlights of the contest include Mr. Witty, who was particularly remarkable since the entry included an entire storybook about the character as well as a clay figurine of Mr. Witty! We were also very excited to spread the word all the way to Vancouver, Canada. We received 4 electronic submissions from 9 year old Joaquin Rado.
Mr. Witty storybook and clay figurine
Mr. Bannas all the way from Vancouver, B.C.
We congratulate all of our contestants, your drawings were amazing and we love that you embraced this older storybook series, which was first published in the 1970s! Thanks for decorating our storefront with your Mr. Men and Little Miss creations and taking almost every single Mr. Men and Little Miss storybook in our book bank!
Little Miss Reagan & The Children’s Book Bank
Draw a Mr. Men or Little Miss character, or make up your own, for a chance to WIN A PRIZE!
Please print our Mr. Men and Little Miss Contest page and submit your drawing to the book bank by November 29th, 2014. Don’t forget to write out the name of the Mr. Men or Little Miss character, your name/age, and your telephone number.
Winners will be chosen on Dec 1st, 2014 and notified via telephone.
We can’t wait to see what our little artists come up with!
May at The Children’s Book Bank is going to be all about celebrating classics. May’s Book of the Month “Mama’s Going to Buy you a Mockingbird” by Jean Little was selected by Vikki VanSickle, Penguin Canada’s Marketing and Publicity Manager for Young Readers. Here’s why Vikki chose the beautiful novel for May’s Book of the Month:
“What is a classic? Some people shy away from books we call classic because the word bringing to mind stuffy old characters doing stuffy old things, but to me the word classic means timeless. A classic is a story that people all over the world can read at any point and still be touched by the characters and their challenges. In MAMA’S GOING TO BUY YOU A MOCKINGBIRD the main character Jeremy is having a bad summer. You don’t have to be a boy, from the same country, or have a sick parent to know what it’s like to have a bad day, week, or even year. Emotions, like classic books, are timeless, ageless, and genderless. No matter what religion you practise or where you come from, you know what it’s like to feel sad, happy, angry, or lonely. Jeremy’s story has sad moments, but it also has happy ones. Life is never one or the other, but both, and everything in between. I hope you enjoy this Puffin Canadian Classic and you share it with a friend. That’s how classics are born, when a reader like you shares a book with someone else.”
A very special thanks to Penguin Canada for donating copies of “Mama’s Going to Buy you a Mockingbird” in addition to a mixed selection of classics for our Book of the Month May Classics Celebration! Read with us and try a classic!
Back in February, in honour of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, The Children’s Book Bank hosted our own version of the games: The Reading Olympics! This program sought to encourage children to take and read books of varying formats and subjects; ones that they may not have been interested in taking off our shelves in past visits. Over the course of a month, children read books about magic, poetry books, graphic novels, and books with a number in the title (just to name a few categories). After reading these books, participants were required to orally report about what they read. Each book report warranted a stamp in the designated category and once a child had received 5 stamps in different categories they were awarded a bronze medal, 10 stamps secured them a silver medal and 15 stamps won them a gold medal!
Olympic Gold Medalist Koshin!
Olympic Gold Medalist Jierui!
Olympic Gold Medalist Azma!
The results are in and with over 70 participants and 12 medalists, The Children’s Book Bank’s Reading Olympics was a huge victory! The program’s measurable successes include an increase in visit frequency and more diverse inventory being checked out, for example: biographies, Canadian authors, folk tales, and books from another time or another place. Most importantly, this program showcased the Book Bank as a fun destination for literacy support in Regent Park. Having the participants recall what they had read and answer questions about the books challenged readers and ensured that books that were taken off our shelves were carefully read. The palpable spirit of competition at our storefront is something we hope to repeat with future games. See you in 2015 for the Pan Am Games!