Whistler business helps provide first books to young readers 

Love Child Organics partners with First Books Canada to promote literacy

click to enlarge PHOTO BY BRADLEY CARRANCEJA-FRENCH/BCCF PHOTOGRAPHY - WELL READ Leah Garrad-Cole of Love Child Organics reads to a group of students at Signal Hill Elementary in Pemberton.
  • photo by Bradley Carranceja-French/BCCF Photography
  • WELL READ Leah Garrad-Cole of Love Child Organics reads to a group of students at Signal Hill Elementary in Pemberton.

As a former teacher, making the decision to support non-profit organization First Book Canada was an easy one for Love Child Organics president and founder Leah Garrad-Cole.

"There's a real personal connection for me. It's one of the reasons that we chose this non-profit in the first place," Garrad-Cole said.

"I'm a true believer that we can't stop reading books. We can't just do all of our reading online, and so I'm really happy that these kids will actually go home with books."

On June 15, Garrad-Cole and the staff at Love Child teamed up with First Book to deliver about 2,000 books to the students at Signal Hill Elementary School in Pemberton.

Students were each allowed to choose four books to take home.

"The idea is to try to boost reading, because there's often quite a slide during the summer," Garrad-Cole said, adding that Signal Hill has a diverse range of students.

"There's quite a mix of kids," she said. "Some are high needs and some are not, but we really wanted to do something that could be for all the kids, because all kids could use that summer boost."

Students were also treated to a reading by author Caroline Adderson.

Since being founded 24 years ago in the U.S., First Book has helped distribute 100 million books to 50,000 schools and programs.

The non-profit works with about 3,500 groups in Canada — everything from schools and mom-and-tot groups to boys and girls clubs and even prisons.

"Often we find we are speaking to kids who are really keen, it's just that so many of them just don't have the means or perhaps don't have parents that are all that well-read, or perhaps just don't get an opportunity to read to their children all that frequently for a whole bunch of reasons," said Tom Best, executive director of First Book Canada.

"And so by giving them books, sometimes their very first book, it can make a significant difference and I think they're enormously appreciative."

According to the Canadian Literacy and Learning Network, 42 per cent of adults between the ages of 16 and 65 have low literacy skills.

Another stat from First Book says that about 25 per cent of Canadian households don't contain a single book.

"It's a pretty significant portion of Canadians that don't have the proper sort of reading skills and abilities," Best said. "We're trying to change that dynamic so that kids become adults and are passionate about reading and have their own books to read."

Getting kids reading at an early age can have noticeable effects on them later in life, Best said.

"That's why I think we're so passionate about it," he said. "Because we know particularly if we can introduce books at an early age, we can change everything from vocabulary skills and knowledge right on through to becoming even better citizens, meaning that they tend to vote more or they keep out of trouble with the law."

And being able to play a part in children's lives means a lot to Garrad-Cole and Love Child.

"We decided to (donate to First Book) from the beginning, and for me it has been one of the best decisions we've ever made," Garrad-Cole said.

"There's something great about having a business and actually being able to give a significant amount of money in a meaningful way to organizations, because I wouldn't be able to do that personally."

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