Sparking a Love for Reading: A Conversation with Helaine Becker

Helaine Becker is the bestselling author of more than 80 books for children and young adults, including the “enduring Canadian Christmas classic” A Porcupine in a Pine Tree and the international bestseller Counting on Katherine. She’s a multi-time winner of the Silver Birch Award and a two-time winner of the Lane Anderson Award for science writing for children. She also has three nonfiction titles recognized by the Junior Library Guild, a Bank Street Best of the Year and a Sydney Taylor Notable Book under her belt. She’s also a certified pyrotechnician, so — KABOOM! — expect fireworks at any time. Fortunately, Helaine had time to sit down and talk to us about why she loves being an Author Champion with First Book Canada!

Why are you an Author Champion?

I work with First Book Canada because I know how important it is for kids to have access to books, and how the statistics show that having even one book in a household helps a child do better in school and beyond. I know how important books have been in my own life. I want to help make sure other kids get the same opportunities to be inspired, delighted, educated, moved, and challenged by the written word that I’ve had.

What has been your experience with giving your book to children to take home?

When I see their eyes light up, and they clutch the book to their chests – it makes me want to weep. Such a little thing, isn’t it? To bring so much joy, so much promise.

I know how important books have been in my own life.

What’s one event that sticks out to you?

One of the most memorable events of my entire career was a First Book Canada event at an inner city school, reported to be the lowest income school in the district. The staff at this school were incredible, and the atmosphere in the school beautiful and warm from the moment I arrived to the moment I was escorted to the parking lot. The care shown to all members of the school community was impressive, and the results were too. Those kids, many of whom had come through challenging situations as refugees and were still living in challenging situations, were engaged, on the ball, charming, well-mannered, and prepared.

And the excitement they showed when they were given their books! It was electric.

This wonderful day proved to me how critical quality public education is, and how a committed and caring school community can make a positive impact, no matter the circumstances. It showed me how much kids themselves value and appreciate books, when they are given the opportunity to do so.

How would you describe First Book Canada’s work to someone who had never heard of us?

First Book Canada opens the door for kids for whom life has not seen fit to give a key. And that door! It’s everything.

What role did books play in your life when you were growing up?        

I was blessed to have access to a quality public library and a school library, plus parents who were both devoted readers. Books were huge for me. They were an escape when I needed one, and also a source of information and laughs when I wanted those. The Silly Book by Stoo Hample was a personal fave. I was allowed to read whatever I wanted, and as a result read widely. So now I possess a very broad mixture of “head-garbage,” which I think has helped me become a more creative and a wiser person.

…a committed and caring school community can make a positive impact, no matter the circumstances.

Do you have any final remarks you’d like to share with us?        

Thank you, First Book Canada, for continuing to do good work in handing a key to kids who might otherwise never get one.

Thank you, Helaine, for being an Author Champion and getting books to kids!


Learn more about our Author Champions!

Are you an author who has worked with First Book Canada and you want to share your experience? Contact our Communications Coordinator.