A Decade in Review

Top 10 First Book Canada Moments, 2009 – 2019

When we started in 2009, we had a small, dedicated team of 2. Now, in 2019, we are a passionate and committed team of 7. As we celebrate our 10th anniversary, let’s look back on the last decade of growth, success, and fun as we provided millions of books to kids!


In September 2009, we first attended Word on the Street Toronto. Children’s author Susan Hughes joined our booth to sign books for kids visiting the festival. 


On May 8th, 2012 we held the first annual Pongapalooza! Pongapalooza is a fundraising ping pong tournament held at SPiN Toronto in support of First Book Canada. This year was the 8th Annual Pongapalooza supported by RBC Capital Markets and we raised $54,000. Join us for next year’s event on Tuesday, May 26th, 2020!  

The First Book Canada Marketplace went live on October 3, 2012! The Marketplace provides access to thousands of bestselling titles and essential resources available to our network of educators and community leaders for 50% – 90% off retail price. Since then we’ve added thousands of new titles and expanded to include a 24/7 Book Bank where members can receive free books and only pay the cost of shipping and handling.  


In February 2013, First Book and First Book Canada launched The Stories for All ProjectTM. We purchased $1 million worth of books that featured underrepresented groups in children’s literature: books that would reflect the experiences of the children we serve. We want to show publishers that there is a demand for this content and encourage them to publish more, which will initiate systemic change. Since then we have continued to fill the First Book Canada Marketplace with quality titles, some of which are now some of our bestsellers, both by and about marginalized groups. 


In 2015, the first Reading Challenge took place! The Challenge was originally started in partnership with Toronto Raptors player DeMar DeRozan to support 10 grade five classes in reading 10 books over the course of 10 weeks! This year’s Reading Challenge, supported by Compugen’s Green4Good program, Bank of Montreal, and the Raptors 905 provided 20 grade five classes with seven books for each student — that’s over 3,000 books to over 500 students! This initiative provides students with a unique opportunity to develop their reading and writing skills, as each week they are required to read a book and write a short book review.

Photo: Frontier College Annual Report, 2015

In a pilot project, First Book Canada, with generous support from TD Bank Group, provided 2,280 books for children attending 120 Frontier College Indigenous Summer Literacy Camps. Titles were specially selected to reflect Indigenous culture, language, and traditions. Books were authored or illustrated by Indigenous people. Since 2015, we have provided an estimated 14,820 books through camps for thousands of children in Indigenous communities in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Yukon Territory, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut.


In September 2016 we celebrated our 5 millionth donated book! This was a huge milestone for us and would not have been possible without the generous support of our publishing partners! To-date we have provided over 7 million books to kids who need them (that’s more than two million books in just the past three years!). 


When forest fires ravaged British Columbia during the summer of 2017, First Book Canada and Scotiabank stepped in to support families and communities as they rebuilt. Together, we provided 15,000 new books to 10 schools across the province that were most affected by the fires. It was important to us that we help alleviate post-traumatic stress experienced by children after the natural disaster. The donated books gave children the opportunity to read with their families and help to recuperate a sense of security and connection. 

“It was so exciting to know that the kids were all being sent home with beautiful, high-quality books, and just in time for Christmas! Because we had such a difficult summer, it was great to share this donation with students who may likely be having a difficult holiday season. It brought some joy after a stressful summer.”

Educator, Cache Creek, British Columbia 

First Book Canada’s Executive Director Tom Best was interviewed on Global News in September 2017. He was invited to discuss the rising concerns over literacy rates in Canada and what First Book Canada is doing to support Canadian kids. Watch the interview here


In 2018, we partnered with Amazon.ca for the first time to distribute 100,000 brand new books to kids in need. Amazon.ca customers participated in the Buy 1, Give 1 online campaign where Amazon.ca donated $1 to First Book Caada for each purchase of a qualifying children’s book. Amazon.ca renewed their support in 2019 and they will help us provide 100,000 new books to children across the country!

Donations from individuals like yourself help support children in receiving the first book that will spark a lifetime of love for reading and learning. Show your support by giving today.