Due to the unprecedented school closures associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, many children in high-needs communities have been left without access to learning resources and books, as many students from disadvantaged backgrounds rely on schools and support programs for basic necessities. The Indigo Love of Reading Foundation recognized this need and in April launched the Love of Reading Community Response Fund with a commitment of $1 million in grants to put books in the hands of kids during this time when they need it most. The grants have been awarded to local non-profit organizations that serve children and their families in high-needs communities to purchase books and educational resources.
The following organizations have received grants:
Native Child and Family Services in Toronto – $25,000
- Native Child and Family Services in Toronto are extremely dedicated to fostering a love of reading for high-needs Aboriginal children and youth in Toronto – many of who are now experiencing barriers to learning as schools, day care centres and other vital community spaces remain closed due to the pandemic. The organization strongly believes that connecting young people to their culture and history is key to overcoming adversity. The funds will help offer their communities access to books that will enrich their relationship to their culture, history and Aboriginal identity. They were able to distribute books to 1,000 Aboriginal families and homes across Toronto, including children and youth who access their programs.
The Children’s Book Bank – $12,500
- The Children’s Book Bank provides literacy support to children and families in high-needs neighbourhoods across the GTA. In the last two months, they have distributed more than 25,000 books to children. With most schools, camps and libraries closed this summer, their services are needed now more than ever. Books are essential tools for children to continue learning and nurturing their imagination. The funds allowed them to help fill in some gaps for book donations. They were able to distribute books with diverse titles, representing the many communities that visit the Book Bank and benefit from their service.
The Leacock Foundation – $12,500
- The Leacock Foundation provides fully funded literacy programming after school, on weekends and in the summer for three priority communities in Toronto. However, as the pandemic hit, many families in their communities faced barriers in providing reading resources for their children as the organization also temporarily closed. One of the ways that the Leacock Foundation put the funds to work was by including books in learning packets for their virtual LEAP into Literacy Summer Camp, which helped reinforce literacy at home. Putting books in the hands of students in their communities isn’t temporary but more lasting, as they will improve their reading and writing skills which will help them over the course of their lives.
Birkdale Portfolio Shelter – $4,165
- The Birkdale Portfolio Shelter provides much-needed services to families in high-needs communities. However, they needed to find an alternative way to keep children engaged while fostering family interaction in a non-traditional way, as communities were locked down in social isolation. Many of the children who were in isolation were without electronic devices as TDSB moved from in class learning to e-learning. The funds helped offer children new books to keep their imagination active while they remained in a one bedroom with multiple family members during the social isolation period. This was also a profound way for children to expand their minds and develop critical thinking while reading, as well as allowed older siblings to read to their younger siblings which increased family bonding.
To continue these impacts, Indigo pledged recently pledged to donate 1% of the annual net proceeds from the sale of every children’s book purchased to the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation. Now, when Canadians purchase children’s books at any Indigo, Chapters, Coles or on Indigo.ca, they are also helping to provide books to children in need across the country. This initiative will enable the Foundation to continue offering supports like the Community Response Fund to children in high-needs communities across Canada.