In April, the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation (ILOR) committed $1 million in books and educational resources to support Canadian children in high-needs communities during the COVID-19 pandemic with the launch of the Indigo Love of Reading Community Response Fund. The first round of these grants were awarded to organizations across Canada that were able to mobilize quickly to support children during the COVID-19 pandemic. The stories below represent just some of the impacts we’ve seen through this program so far.
When schools closed in March, Toronto-based non-profit organization Parents Engaged in Education stepped up to start building “Learn at Home” kits for children and youth living in poverty. These kits offered a vital source of education for young people who would otherwise not have had access due to school closures and limited resources at home. In addition to the educational benefits, Executive Director Theresa Pastore shared that the books gave the children they serve the opportunity to escape the stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing them to enhance their mental health and well-being during the crisis. Theresa said, “books gave them the opportunity to escape into great stories that take their mind off their current living situation, which was only magnified by self-isolation and stress during COVID-19.”
Speaking of the impact of this program, Teresa Pastore explained that without the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation Community Response Fund, “organizations just would not have been able to respond to the crisis as we did.” Parents Engaged in Education were able to stretch their grant funding to provide more than 1,500 children across the city of Toronto with access to 3,000 books.
The Winnipeg Aboriginal Sport Achievement Centre (WASAC) helps to remove barriers to sport and recreation programming for thousands of Indigenous children and youth and is Canada’s largest employer for Indigenous young people. When schools closed and many children and youth programs shut down, the children in Winnipeg were at high risk of falling behind in reading during this pandemic. That is why WASAC applied for the Indigo Love of Reading Community Response Fund. However, the books they were able to distribute did more than just promote literacy. Jim Thompson, Program Manager, shared that the program was also a great way to build intergenerational connections with families, by “building role models who can inspire their younger brothers and sisters to fall in love with reading.” Carley Henderson, a mother, and WASAC Alumni echoed that, sharing that the books her family received provided “a source of learning that our children enjoy and gave me that extra snuggle time with our daughter.” Through their grant, WASAC was able to reach 2,356 children and youth across the Winnipeg region.
Native Child and Family Services in Toronto are extremely dedicated to fostering a love of reading for Indigenous children and youth in Toronto – many of who are now experiencing barriers to learning as schools, daycare centres, and other vital community spaces remain closed due to the pandemic. The organization strongly believes that connecting young people to their culture and history is key to overcoming adversity. The funds helped offer their communities access to books that enriched their relationship to their culture, history, and Indigenous identity. One beneficiary from the Native Family & Child Services of Toronto shared that, “I related to this book because I’m learning my culture, my language…”. By distributing books to 1,000 Indigenous children and families across Toronto, Native Child and Family Services were able to deepen connections between Indigenous children and their language and culture, all through the power of reading!