Raptors 905 and Penguin Random House team up for a children's reading program focused on empathy and inclusion

The Raptors 905 Summer Reading Challenge was developed to give kids access to books that represent Black and other diverse communities.

200 Grade 5 students to read for a cumulative total of 905 minutes — or one book a week for five weeks.

The Raptors 905, First Book Canada and Penguin Random House Canada have partnered for the Raptors 905 Summer Reading Challenge. (

Penguin Random House Canada, First Book Canada and the Raptors 905 have partnered to launch the Raptors 905 Summer Reading Challenge. 

200 Grade 5 students, mostly from Ontario's Peel Region, are being challenged to read for a cumulative total of 905 minutes — or one book a week for five weeks. 

The diverse books and authors featured in the program are Dragons in a Bag by Ajax, Ont.-born Zetta Elliott, Clean Getaway by Atlanta-based Nic Stone, What Lane? by Brooklyn-based Torrey Maldonado, No Small Potatoes by New York City-based Tonya Bolden and Locomotion by Ohio-born writer Jacqueline Woodson. 

The Dragon Thief by Zetta Elliott is one of the titles that is part of the Tangerine Bank Raptors 905 Summer Reading Challenge. (Bianca Cordova, Random House Books for Young Readers)

The Summer Reading Challenge began on July 27. It will run until Sept. 3, 2020 and is focused on giving kids access to books that represent Black and other diverse communities. The program was designed to foster a spirit of inclusion and empathy among young readers. 

Penguin Random House Canada marketing and communications vice-president Beth Lockley stressed the importance of kids seeing themselves represented in the books they read. 

"It's so important that kids see themselves and their experiences reflected in the authors, characters and stories they read, stories which, at their best, spark young readers' imaginations and inspire them to dream without limits," she said.

Participants will be asked to write a short report about what they liked and took away from each book. There will also be weekly virtual meetings with the authors, representatives from Brampton's Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD) and Raptors 905 head coach Jama Mahlalela to discuss the themes and messages of the stories. 

Jama Mahlalela is the head coach of the Raptors 905 and moderator of the Raptors 905 Summer Reading Challenge book discussions. (

Mahlalela says he is happy to be involved in this important initiative.

"I'm so excited to be able to participate and help guide some of the discussion around these books and more broadly around some really important issues in our community," Mahlalela said in a press statement.

"I have always been passionate about education and the knowledge that comes through that, and reading is such a valuable tool for kids, and adults, to continually work at and develop."

Tom Best, executive director of First Book Canada believes it's important to encourage young people to read during their time away from school.

"This has been a challenging year for many children across the country, who have been out of school and left without access to books and educational resources. Now more than ever, it's important to keep kids engaged in reading throughout the summer months," he said.

"This is why we're beyond thrilled to be working with Penguin Random House Canada and Raptors 905 on such an important initiative – one that gives children a unique opportunity to connect with celebrated authors and community role models through reading."

First Book Canada is an organization dedicated to getting brand new books into the hands of kids in need across the country. 

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