Building a Connected Community

Below is a letter from Graham Hughes, Executive Director of Literacy Alberni in Port Alberni, B.C.

I’ve lived in Port Alberni for most of my life and seen the changes cutbacks to education have had on classroom resources, opportunities for children, and now as a professional, the impacts these cutbacks have had on the lives of children and their development. Children love books, but when they discover them together it’s an entirely new experience of curiosity, sharing, and developing the love of books and reading. I always emphasize the Koffi Annan quote: “Literacy is, finally, the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman and child can realize his or her full potential.” We are going to change our community through literacy, and our work is so much more impactful thanks to the opportunities First Book Canada provides us with for little or no cost.

First Book Canada has, for many years, allowed us to distribute books to children in our community. However, the Pop Up Book Distribution became an opportunity to not only give children what they need, but also provide teachers and service providers the resources they otherwise would not have access to. We know that books are vital to a child’s development. Now that books have become barrier free for our community, and every child within our region has no less than 2 new books from First Book Canada, we’re making a measurable impact on our community’s future, and it was all so easy to do.

What was the most surprising about the First Book Canada Pop Up Book Distribution was how easy the entire process was. The representatives from First Book Canada coordinated the event so efficiently and cohesively that there was no stress, chaos, or last-minute problems to solve. Everything was so well organized.

The other surprising fact was that many of the other nonprofit organizations in our community were just as eager to participate in the ability to distribute books to their clients as we always are.

We work with Decoda Literacy Solutions and part of my role as Executive Director is to perform the duties of Literacy Outreach Coordinator. The responsibilities of this role include spreading awareness of literacy issues, creating partnerships with other service providers to promote reading to children, and address the crucial importance of having access to books in the home. Literacy Alberni was able to became so much more impactful in these commitments through the First Book Canada Pop Up Book Distribution by allowing our partners to have the resources required to not only speak to the importance of books and reading, but to be able to have the resources available to distribute to their clients directly, further removing any barriers to getting books into the homes of our community’s most marginalized families.

Our community has a literacy crisis. Our child development rates need drastic intervention and a collective community commitment to working to change.

This opportunity to volunteer with First Book Canada brought so many changemakers and child development advocates together in one of the best events I’ve had the privilege of being a part of in my professional life.

So often in the nonprofit world we have dreams to be able to do the things that we know will change lives, but budget limitations stunt the ability to bring these dreams to fruition. First Book Canada made it possible for us to reach these goals. After volunteering with First Book Canada, I have a renewed belief in how much can be done when we work together. I never thought making such a huge impact on the lives and development of children would be possible so easily.”