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June 22, 2021

Literacy groups and food banks team up to deliver books and reading resources to thousands of kids hit hard by COVID-19 pandemic disruptions

Read On Canada!/Lisons Canada! initiative launches for second year to help stem pandemic-related learning loss and nourish children’s love of reading; all Canadians invited to join the movement to ‘read on’

– Toronto – As another disrupted school year comes to an end, literacy organizations and food banks from across Canada are joining forces to get books to children who need them most and share fun reading activities for all families online. This initiative, called Read On Canada!/Lisons Canada!, is distributing thousands of books to kids through food banks and sharing reading resources at so all families can ‘read on.’

Now in its second summer, Read On Canada! is needed more than ever as many children have fallen behind in reading skills due to pandemic-related disruptions.

More than one million children in Canada are estimated to have below grade-level reading skills – and the pandemic is causing children to struggle further. Those whose families are hit hardest by the pandemic are also the ones who are at greatest risk of losing ground in reading. Unfortunately, a disproportionate number of children who are below grade level in reading come from low socioeconomic status communities or households.

“We are deeply concerned about the pandemic’s devastating impact on children,” said Ariel Siller, CEO of the Canadian Children’s Literacy Foundation, coordinating partner of the Read On Canada! coalition. “Our goal is to empower and inspire all kids to keep moving forward on their reading journeys because reading is not only foundational to learning but it also brings joy and hope, even on the darkest days.”

Reading with children, right from birth, is an important way to help them reach their full potential in school and throughout life. Even if a child is facing gaps in their learning due to the pandemic, continuing to read together can help children to continue building vocabulary and language, and mitigate any potential learning loss.

Reading also supports mental health, which is particularly important in difficult times such as this. Reading has been shown to improve parents’ moods and help children develop stronger social-emotional skills. Kids who are read to nearly daily have been shown to have better social-emotional skills than their peers who were read to less frequently, regardless of the family’s income or education level.

Addressing the urgent need for access to reading resources The Read On Canada! coalition is a growing group that includes ABC Life Literacy Canada, Calgary Reads, Canadian Children’s Literacy Foundation, Centre for Family Literacy, First Book Canada, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, Frontier College, Let’s Talk Science, NWT Literacy Council, The Children’s Book Bank, The Indigo Love of Reading Foundation, and The Reading Partnership.

This year, the coalition steering committee also includes food bank advisory partners Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank, Harvest Manitoba, Solidarité Familles, and Surrey Food Bank.

With the generous support of Canadian publishers including Groundwood Books, Nelson, OwlKids Books, Penguin Random House Canada, and Tundra Books, the Read On Canada! coalition has come together to empower, encourage and equip families with reading resources. Funding for the initiative is generously provided by Wawanesa Insurance, The Indigo Love of Reading Foundation, and others. Books will be transported to food banks primarily by carriers involved with the Trucks For Change Network, a non-profit organization that utilizes trucking capacity to support transportation needs of Canadian charities and is providing in-kind support to Read On Canada!.

Together the Read On Canada! coalition is:

  • Gifting children’s books and reading resources to families accessing food banks this summer.
  • Sharing fun, enriching reading resources at for all families in Canada to enjoy.
  • Inviting Canadians to post online about why they are ‘reading on’ this summer, building a movement around how important reading is to our individual and collective futures.

How you can help

  • Read with a child you love!
  • Show your support on social media by declaring that you are ‘reading on’ this summer and encouraging others to do the same. Be sure to use the hashtag #ReadOnCanada, link to and tag us @canliteracy so we can share your messages.
  • Donate to Read On Canada! Every dollar helps us get two more fun and enriching books to children who need them this summer. Visit to make your donation.


Media contact:
Omar Siddiqui
Canadian Children’s Literacy Foundation

Quotes from Read On Canada!/Lisons Canada! Steering Committee Members and Supporters:
“Taking time each day to learn together as a family helps children develop skills to become lifelong learners and helps adults keep their skills sharp. We are pleased to be part of the Read On Canada! movement and contribute fun family activities, games, and stories to help more families learn and grow together.”
– Mack Rogers, Executive Director, ABC Life Literacy Canada
“Taking a few minutes to read together as a family is one of the most important ways—and one of the simplest ways—we can support the young readers in our lives right now. Children need help from caring adults to grow their reading skills, and that one-on-one time is also very comforting for them. We’re so looking forward to sharing the resources and inspiration from Read On Canada! with families this summer.”
– Steacy Collyer, CEO, Calgary Reads
"Learning is strengthened when it happens within positive, loving relationships. Talking, singing, playing, sharing books and doing activities together as a family builds and strengthens literacy skills for the whole family. Centre for Family Literacy is happy to be part of the Read On Canada! initiative to get books into the hands of families and support these important interactions.”
– Kim Chung, Co-Executive Director, Centre for Family Literacy
“Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is delighted to collaborate with literacy partners on the Read On Canada! initiative, with the shared mission of boosting literacy. ‘You can never get enough books into the hands of enough children.’ Dolly Parton.”
– Jeanne Smitiuch, Regional Director, Canada, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library/The Dollywood Foundation of Canada
“Cuddling up to read together may just be the magic elixir we are all searching for this summer. Its positive effect on mind, body and relationships is two-way: adults get many of the same bonuses as the child. With the boost provided by the Read On Canada! movement we are hopeful that all of Waterloo Region’s children will enjoy the benefits as they Cuddle Up & Read in the arms of those who love and care for them.”
– Kathilee Porter, Activator, Early Learning & Literacy Alliance (ELLA) of Waterloo Region
“It’s hard to believe there are so many young children in Canada who go hungry. But sadly, it’s true. It is heartbreaking that many of these same Canadian children have no books of their very own. That’s why we are so strongly motivated to make this year’s Read On Canada !/ Lisons Canada! campaign such a resounding success. First Book Canada is working with a remarkable coalition of book publishing partners, literacy organizations and heroic food banks to ensure all Canadian kids not only have nutritious food but meaningful new books and educational resources on an ongoing basis.“
– Tom Best  Executive Director, First Book Canada / Le Premier Livre Canada
“minibiblioPLUS is excited to be a part of Read On Canada! It advances our work of expanding access to books and building a culture of reading and learning in communities across Canada. Reading to children from Day 1 promotes children's health and overall wellbeing, goals that have assumed new urgency in the face of COVID-19. Being transported by a story is one of life's greatest pleasures, and we hope all children can benefit from the gift of literacy.”
– Asha Dixit, Executive Director, Fraser-Hickson Institute
“At Frontier College, we believe in making literacy and learning accessible. Quality learning opportunities are important in early child development. Through our partnership with Read On Canada! we remain committed to finding and using innovative ways to reach people who need support. Reading boosts confidence and it builds resilience. And that is something we all need right now.”
— Stephen Faul, President, Frontier College
“At the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation, we believe that all children deserve access to books and the opportunity to fall in love with reading. Every family has felt the impacts of the pandemic, but we know that some were hit harder than others. With summer on the horizon, we couldn't imagine a better time to support this coalition, help families in need, and encourage children across Canada to 'read on'!”
– Rose Lipton, Executive Director, The Indigo Love of Reading Foundation
“Children are natural and curious learners. From an early age, they have an innate desire to explore everything and test their ideas - attributes that are at the heart of STEM engagement. We are pleased to participate in Read On Canada! again this year and recognize the critical importance of early literacy. It is foundational for children’s ability to learn effectively and ultimately realize the endless possibilities within STEM.” 
– Dr. Bonnie Schmidt, President and Founder, Let's Talk Science
“The Children’s Book Bank connects children and their families living in Toronto’s high-priority neighbourhoods with books to read and to cherish as their own. The Canadian Feed the Children Foundation reminds us that food-secure children achieve higher levels of literacy, and children with higher levels of literacy lead more food-secure lives.  The Book Bank is happy to continue our support of the Read On Canada! initiative which is focused on making real this crucial link between feeding the body and nourishing the mind.”
– Mary Ladky, Executive Director, The Children’s Book Bank
“We are thrilled to welcome Read On Canada! as a partner of our Breakfast2Go Summer Pop Up Program this year. Harvest will be providing a one-week supply of breakfast kits free of charge to more than 4,000 children in Winnipeg and Northern Manitoba this summer. Adding books to the mix is a real treat. We are happy to fuel both body and mind for learning.”
– Keren Taylor-Hughes, Harvest CEO
“Congratulations to the Read On Canada! coalition of literacy organizations and food bank partners for creating this outstanding program, which will help fuel the imaginations of so many children during the summer months and beyond. For us at Wawanesa Insurance, looking after one another is at the heart of what we do. That’s why we are pleased to support the Read On Canada! program, helping to make sure children and their families can get easy access to books and find fun new ways to learn.”
– Jodi Carradice, SVP and Chief People & Culture Officer, Wawanesa
“The entire JD Smith team is thrilled to be part of this important initiative that supports and reinforces the importance of reading skills for children.”
–  Scott Smith, President, JD Smith Logistics Solutions and Chair of the Trucks For Change Network