Read On Canada! program nominated for international literary award for work during pandemic

Read On Canada!/Lisons Canada! is ​​a group of reading advocates and food bank partners from across the country, working to get books and reading resources to children.
Harvest Manitoba, a food distributor based in Winnipeg, are part of the Read On Canada! children's literacy initiative. Pictured above: Colleen McVarish, director of corporate partnerships (left), and Mika Peterson, community events manager. (Submitted by Canadian Children's Literacy Foundation)

Read On Canada! has been shortlisted for a 2021 World Literacy Award, in the category of Significant Contribution to Literacy in Response to the Pandemic. 

The World Literacy Awards has recognized five initiatives from around the world for this award. 

The other shortlisted initiatives are Pencils of Promises, Simbi, AfriKids and Department of Justice Western Australia.

Read On Canada!/Lisons Canada! is ​​a group of reading advocates and food bank partners from across the country, working to get books and reading resources to children. The participating non-profit organizations include the Canadian Children's Literacy Foundation, First Book Canada, Harvest Manitoba and Dolly Parton's Imagination Library.

The coalition first formed around May 2020, after libraries and schools had been closed down across Canada for weeks. Read On Canada! ended up distributing 140,000 books that summer.

The group has been distributing books in communities across Canada through food banks and sharing a range of online reading activities for children.

The coalition has distributed more than 150,000 books in both French and English to over 230 food banks or food-related provinces in every province and territory across Canada.

"Families are definitely exhausted [this year]," said Ariel Siller, CEO of the Canadian Children's Literacy Foundation, in an interview with CBC Books.

"At least 1 million children in Canada had below grade level reading before the pandemic. The whole story hasn't been written yet, but there is evidence that children are falling behind and there will be significant efforts required so that kids get the skills they need, particularly around literacy development."

The World Literacy Awards celebrate individuals and organizations annually for their outstanding endeavours that promote literacy learning.

The awards are an initiative of the World Literacy Foundation, a peak global literacy charity and the World Literacy Council.

The 2021 award ceremony takes place virtually on Sept. 8, International Literacy Day, at 3 p.m. ET in London. You can find out more on the World Literacy Awards website.

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