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June 23, 2020

More than 130,000 books are on the way to children served by food banks across Canada through new Read On Canada! initiative

Coalition of reading advocates formed in response to pandemic puts books in kids’ hands and invites all Canadians to join in the joy of reading

JUNE 23, 2020 – Toronto – This week marks the start of Read On Canada!, an exciting initiative from a coalition of reading advocates and Food Banks Canada, supported by the generous donation of books from Canadian publishers (see list below). The Read On Canada! initiative is making more than 130,000 books available to families through food bank partners and sharing fun activities online at The goal is to inspire all children to ”read on” as the school year officially comes to an end and the pandemic stretches into summer.
Read On Canada! was created to mitigate the effects of the “summer slide,” a drop in reading ability which can happen over the summer months, particularly among children who do not have opportunities to read during the school break. This year, the slide is expected by some educators to be a “summer avalanche” given the long disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These disruptions affect all children, including babies and pre-schoolers, with pandemic-related closures of libraries, daycares, and community programs.
“Too many children in Canada are heading into summer with limited access to reading materials,” said Ariel Siller, CEO of the Canadian Children’s Literacy Foundation, coordinating partner of the Read On Canada! coalition. “We launched Read On Canada! to help address that, providing books and reading activities to  families with children from birth through to age ten so they can find joy, comfort, and enrichment in the power of words during these challenging times.”
All Canadians are encouraged to join the Read On Canada! movement by reading with a child they love and visiting to check out the growing collection of fun reading activities for families. You can also show your support on social media by declaring that you are “reading on” this summer, using the hashtag #ReadOnCanada. Check out how astronaut Chris Hadfield has joined the movement here.
The Read On Canada! coalition came together around a shared view that reading with children, starting from their earliest days, and supporting them to “read on” is an important way to help them reach their full potential in school and throughout life. Age-appropriate, engaging reading materials are crucial to helping children develop the skills they need to thrive emotionally and academically. Strong reading skills are strongly linked to children becoming healthier, more socially engaged and more productive adults.
“This summer, many families struggling with food insecurity will get the gift of hope in a food hamper,” says Chris Hatch, CEO of Food Banks Canada. “Because of our partnership with Read On Canada!, not only will families with children receive much-needed food supplies, but each child will also receive a book, which has the ability to open up a world of possibilities. They will know that someone cares, not only for their physical well-being, but for their development as well.”
Read On Canada! is made possible by an ever-growing coalition of advocates, including:
  • Steering Committee: ABC Life Literacy Canada, Calgary Reads, The Children’s Book Bank, Canadian Children’s Literacy Foundation, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, First Book Canada, Frontier College, The Indigo Love of Reading Foundation, and Let’s Talk Science
  • Coordinating Partner: Canadian Children’s Literacy Foundation
  • Book Partners: Annick Press, Canadian Children's Book Centre’s TD Grade One Book Giveaway, Disney Book Group, First Book Canada, Friesens, Hachette Book Group, Harper Collins, The Indigo Love of Reading Foundation, Penguin Random House Canada, Scholastic Canada, Soleil de Minuit, and Trucks for Change
  • Content Partners: ABC Life Literacy Canada, Calgary Reads, The Children’s Book Bank, Canadian Children’s Literacy Foundation, Centre for the Study of Learning & Performance at Concordia University, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, Early Literacy Alliance of Waterloo Region, Frontier College, Let’s Talk Science, The Reading Partnership, Read to Me, and Storybooks Canada, University of British Columbia
  • Distribution Partners: Food Banks Canada and the participating food banks
Further information about children and reading:
  • A child’s reading journey starts at birth when families create language-rich environments, through speaking, singing and reading together, that build their children’s brains.
  • It is never too early to start building a child’s literacy skills and igniting a love of reading. It is predicted that children who are read to at least once a day will hear 290,000 more words by age five than those who aren’t read to by a parent or caregiver.
  • Even pre-pandemic, approximately 25% of children in Canada were not reading at their grade level by Grade 3. Experts are concerned that this will only get worse due to the pandemic disruptions.
  • Canada scores 18th in the most recent Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), a global ranking of Grade 4 readers. This is a significant drop from Canada’s previous score of 12th, as part of a longer downward trend.
Media contact:
Omar Siddiqui
Canadian Children’s Literacy Foundation
Quotes from Read On Canada! Steering Committee Members:
“Spending at least 15 minutes a day to engage in a learning activity together as a family is essential to help children beat the summer slide. Making learning enjoyable through activities such as reading, playing a board game or following a recipe together provides an opportunity for the whole family to practise their literacy skills. We are pleased to contribute stories, activities and games to the Read On Canada! initiative to help more families learn and grow together.” Mack Rogers, Executive Director of ABC Life Literacy Canada
“Calgary Reads has been nourishing children’s minds with books for five years in partnership with our local Food Bank. It is very exciting to now rally around the national Read On Canada! initiative as we have seen the big smiles on children’s faces when they are given a book of their very own to write their name inside.” Steacy Pinney, CEO, Calgary Reads
Read On Canada! shows what happens when genuine collaboration across sectors occurs. The Children’s Book Bank is thrilled to work with partners also committed to achieving a healthier, more equitable society by narrowing the literacy gap.”  Mary Ladky, Executive Director, The Children’s Book Bank
“Our Imagination Library Leader Dolly Parton says, ‘Reading inspires us to dream,’ and we hope all children will read on and dream big. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is pleased to collaborate with literacy partners on the Read On Canada! initiative, with the common mission of boosting literacy. Summer is going to look very different this year, but reading can create joy and take us on journeys through our imagination.” Jeanne Smitiuch, Regional Director, Canada, Dollywood Foundation of Canada
“First Book Canada is extremely proud to be involved in the Read On Canada! initiative, and to work alongside so many impactful organizations. The COVID-19 crisis exacerbates the inequities that already exist. Children from low-income families often don’t have access to the internet or books in their homes. The educators who serve them along with their parents are doing everything they can to create remote learning programs and we need to do everything we can to support them with books and resources.” Tom Best, Executive Director, First Book Canada
“Frontier College is proud to work with Food Banks Canada and the Read On Canada! coalition to build literacy skills among children this summer. Together we have developed fun activities and resources to help children read, learn, and prepare for the school year ahead.” Stephen Faul, President, Frontier College
“At the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation we believe that all children deserve the opportunity to fall in love with reading. With schools and libraries across Canada closed or functioning at limited capacity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and summer on the horizon, we couldn't imagine a better time to support this tremendous coalition effort and encourage all Canadian children to 'read on'!” Rose Lipton, Executive Director, The Indigo Love of Reading Foundation
“Let’s Talk Science is pleased to partner with Read On Canada! and inspire a love of reading. We understand the critical connections between literacy and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) exploration that can spark kids’ imagination and curiosity. Literacy is critical to every child’s ability to learn and thrive in an increasingly complex world, and at a time when our education systems have faced an upheaval, coalitions like Read On Canada! have an important role to play.”  Dr. Bonnie Schmidt, Founder and President, Let’s Talk Science
“Reading is an opportunity to experience the world beyond our homes in ways that bring exciting new adventures, spark imagination and instill hope. We all need this, especially in these times of uncertainty. That’s why the Canadian Children’s Literacy Foundation is delighted to be the coordinating partner of the Read On Canada! coalition, bringing together reading advocates to enrich summer for children.” Ariel Siller, CEO, Canadian Children’s Literacy Foundation