Toronto

Non-profit gives out 7 million books over 10 years to Canadian kids

First Book Canada gets books and other educational resources into the hands of children around the country who might not otherwise have access to them.

First Book, which began in the United States, is celebrating a decade of work in Canada

First Book Canada says that nearly one quarter of Canadian households have no books in them - something the organization is committed to changing. (Supplied by First Book Canada)

A non-profit organization that works to get books to kids is celebrating ten years in Canada. 

First Book Canada expanded to the country from the United States in 2009. In the ten years since, the organization estimates it has distributed seven million books. 

"The most startling statistic is that 25 per cent of Canadian households don't have a single book in them," executive director Tom Best said in an interview with CBC Toronto. "And that has nothing to do with the whole digital revolution."

Best said books might be too expensive, too inaccessible at libraries, or simply not part of a family's routine. 

He said that a lack of access to books can take a particular toll on children over summer break. 

"We know not having that access… kids can even slip a whole grade behind over the course of the two-and-a-half months they are out of school," he said.

Literacy summer camps in Toronto

To counter that slide, First Book Canada has kept busy this summer. 

In the last few weeks, it has co-organized subsidized literacy summer camps at Toronto schools, helped host a book giveaway in Ontario's Attawapiskat First Nation and organized a donation of books to the pediatric ward at the Brampton Civic Hospital with the help of local librarians.    

The summer camps, which are co-organized with the Leacock Foundation, are full-month day camps with workshops, field trips, outdoor games and, of course, plenty of reading and writing. 

Leacock Foundation program director Jessica Murphy told CBC it was "amazing" to see participants walk away from the recent camps with stacks of new books.

"Kids were able to make those literacy connections at home, because now they're able to build their home libraries," she said. 

Unlike charities that collect used children's books, First Book Canada gives away only new books, collected through partnerships with publishers, authors and corporations. 

With files from Lisa Naccarato