People often ask how I can buy a book for $2.60. First Book Canada’s Marketplace is the answer.
I work as a school librarian in three schools in rural Nova Scotia. The schools I work in have small student populations, between approximately 50 – 170 students. Of course the library budgets I’m allotted reflect this isolation and sparse population; $2.60 per student. The majority of my book orders are made online out of geographic necessity which makes it difficult to source and afford material that serves thirteen grade levels in fiction and non-fiction.
My criteria for ordering books is that they must firstly be appealing and of quality content, they need to be affordable, and I would prefer to buy them from a Canadian company. It is fortunate for librarians like myself and the people we serve that First Book Canada (FBC) exists. The books are beyond affordable, there is even a category for books priced $2.50 and less, and they are all recently published editions. Some stories are timeless, but a book with a faded colours or art or photographs from decades ago will almost never be borrowed. The selection of levelled readers in FBC’s Marketplace are of special interest to me as elementary students are both the most frequent library visitors and book borrowers, but also the people for whom it is most essential to instill a love of reading. The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. The National Geographic levelled readers are the most popular ones I buy from FBC Marketplace.
In Nova Scotia there is an unfunded push to rebrand School Libraries as Learning Centers that incorporate makerspaces and STEM/STEAM activities. In addition to literature I am pleased that FBC also offers such games and activities. I bought several copies of a Gravity Maze game by ThinkFun from FBC and they are used on a daily basis. The students know to varying degrees how short-shifted they are so whenever I can supply them with items that exceed their expectations it is a good day for all.
One final way that FBC helps me exceed expectations and champion literacy in my region is through their National Book Bank giveaways. These giveaways allow me to get large quantities of specific titles. Books I have received from these giveaways become present for students, many of whom do not own their own books. This allows enough copies for everyone to get something and no one can complain because they got because everybody got it!
First Book Canada is one of the main bridges between my desire to make a difference and my budget and for that I am very grateful.