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Port Moody Secondary student launches book drive for federal prisons

Chloe Chen is fascinated with criminal law and launched a summer book drive to stock prison library shelves for incarcerated Canadians.

A Port Moody Secondary (PMSS) student fascinated with criminal law and devoted to helping her community launched a book drive this summer for incarcerated Canadians.

Chloe Chen, a Grade 12 student in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program at PMSS who wants to study law after graduating next year, said she designed Books for a Cause to better stock libraries at federal prisons.

"I'm really passionate about literature and about supporting people who don't have a lot of access to it," Chen told the Tri-City News today (July 22) outside of her school, where she is on the student council and the Red Cross club.

"Prisoners need time to rehabilitate and also to have connections to the outside world."

According to a 2003 survey of Canadian federal correctional institutions, prison libraries have been short of staff and collections for years; respondents also felt their libraries were undervalued by administrators.

Chen, a 17-year-old Coquitlam resident who volunteers with the city’s Coquitlam Youth Council and the newly created Community Safety Advisory Committee, said reading, writing and learning are fundamental human rights and desperately needed by Canadians who are "at a time of conflict in their lives."

She’s calling for fictional and non-fictional books for adults, and especially publications that teach a skill such as cooking or carpentry, for example.

Donated books can be dropped off at the youth centre at Pinetree Community Centre (1260 Pinetree Way) or at Coastal Bookstore (272 Newport Dr.) by mid-September.

Chen said the nonprofit organization that she’s working with will pick up the books and distribute them to prison libraries in need.

You can contact Chen via Instagram (@fairbooksca) or email fairbooksca@gmail.com for more information about Books for a Cause.

Book requirements

Donated books for prisoners should...

  • be soft-covered and in good condition
  • not have content that presents a threat to the prison institution and its population, or describes excessive violence or aggression
  • not contain hate language toward any kind of group