The Children’s Book Bank, a longstanding community resource that has been encouraging the love of reading for children in Regent Park for the past eight years, is creatively adapting as their neighbourhood and networks grow and develop—and they continue to need donations as the demand for their services increases.
The Book Bank might not appear to be in much need at first glance. Their warm, inviting library offers a wide range of books that children often excitedly peruse, and their basement is teeming with even more reading material. However, their stockpile won’t last for long. The Children’s Book Bank gives out approximately 200 books every day—and sometimes up to 400 during busier periods.
“Our goal is for kids who don’t have access to books to establish their own library at home,” said Children’s Book Bank Manager Carolyn Madonia, “Book ownership opens up all kinds of opportunities.”
According to the Children’s Book Bank, book ownership fosters a loverfor reading by allowing children to take command of their own reading experiences. It also helps younger children learn to read more quickly because, as many parents will confirm, they often take to reading the same book over and over again.
The Book Bank has expanded its network, and increased their book distribution, through the Books Beyond Berkely initiative, which provides reading material for partner book banks in other in-need neighbourhoods.
The B3 (Building Babies’ Brains) program is also increasing their demand by engaging children as early as possible. Over the past year, The Children’s Book Bank has been providing local health clinics with a sort of “literacy loot bag” for new parents. These bags contain an early reading book, and information about local literary resources and how to read to your baby at different stages.
“It’s kind of like your doctor prescribing reading to your baby. Lots of people don’t realize you need to read to the baby from day one,” said Madonia, ”We’re hoping they’ll get hooked on reading with their babies, and then be able to come here to get more books.”
One of the Children’s Book Banks’ more surprising challenges was brought on by the Regent Park revitalization.
Many of the children who used the Children’s Book Bank on a regular basis have been relocated and are now bussed to and from school, which keeps them from visiting the book bank after classes.
Some families have been able to access other book bank locations and others make a special trip down to the Book Bank on Berkley St. on Saturdays. However, staff discovered that the best way for relocated students to access the bank was through class visits and have taken measures to facilitate as many as possible. For instance, the Children’s Book Bank is now open throughout the school-week and they now allow teachers to easily book their class visits online.
For more information, or to learn how to donate or organize a book drive, you can visit their website at childrensbookbank.com.