Attentive to the causes of illiteracy in Quebec, the Foundation created The Gift of Reading program in 1999. This initiative targets underprivileged children aged 0–12 from across Quebec, with a view to preventing reading and writing difficulties that can lead to dropping out of school and then illiteracy.
Each year, in November and December, the general public are invited to donate a brand new children’s book at one of the 286 collection points in Quebec. Books collected in a given region are distributed to children in that region the following May.
Salomé Corbo: spokesperson
In November 2014, actress Salomé Corbo became the spokesperson for The Gift of Reading. Well aware of the importance of placing children in contact with reading from a very early age, Salomé has been helping out the team for several years at Montreal’s Salon du livre book fair, where she raises public awareness of the cause and takes the opportunity to tell children stories.
Since graduating from the Conservatoire in 2000, Salomé has acted on stage and TV, as well as taking part in several improvisation leagues. She played Anaïs in the TVA series Toute la vérité, and can be seen on Radio-Canada in Unité 9, in the role of primary correctional worker, Caroline Laplante.
“Sometimes all it takes is a little window to see the world around us more clearly. Giving a child a new book is like breaking through the wall, letting the light in, and allowing the child finally to discover the realm of possibilities.”
It was during the infamous ice storm in 1998 that The Gift of Reading came into being. Seeking to set up a project that would bring people together, have an impact in fighting illiteracy and give the public a yearly opportunity to do something to reach the Literacy Foundation’s target clientele, former Foundation CEO, Sophie Labrecque, along with some teacher friends being given shelter for the duration, had the original idea for the program.
In offering The Gift of Reading, you are giving far more than words: you are giving a child the power to act and influence his world on a level with his dreams.
Frequently asked questions
The Gift of Readingis a program aimed at encouraging young people to stay in school and preventing illiteracy in Quebec. We invite the public to buy a brand new book in November and December for a poor child aged 0–12.
It is recognized that early contact with written language is the key factor in doing well at school and spending time reading. In other words, the earlier a child is placed in contact with books, the better his lifelong relationship with reading will be. Liking to read helps children do better at school.
For a needy child, this book is frequently the first brand new book he has ever been given! Often receiving second-hand items, the child appreciates the value of a new book all the more, especially when this book was chosen specially for him by an unknown donor.
A gift – a book – a child
Through your act, you can convey the enjoyment and pleasure of reading to a child who may not be lucky enough to be in contact with books and reading.
Lists of participating bookstores, libraries and book fairs are posted in the Where to participate section.
All funds collected go toward program logistics, in particular the shipping of the books to the children.
Make sure the book meets the following criteria:
- it is brand new;
- it is aimed at children aged 0–12;
- it is fun and conveys the joy of reading.
Here are some ideas: comic books, picture books, hardcover or plasticized books, short novels, books on animals or insects, and puzzle or pop-up books. A helpful guide in choosing a new French-language children’s book may be found on the Communication-Jeunesse Web page under Sélection. Booksellers and publishers can also advise you.
No. Some books are not suitable for the program, in particular:
- books for teens (aged 13 and over);
- books on controversial, sad, religious or sexual topics;
- activity books or textbooks;
- second or subsequent volumes in a series where one has to read the first volume to understand the plot.
The postcard enables you to have news from the child. It is optional. But the child is pleased to know who is giving him his book, and to be able to write to that person if he feels like it. It is important to mention that, in the interest of economy, mailing costs are not covered by the Foundation, but have to be paid by the donors or the child’s family. Also, the Foundation has no control over whether postcards are sent by the children.
A brief word of encouragement is greatly appreciated by the children. Don’t forget the child will be receiving his book in May, and not at Christmas.
The Foundation targets the most underprivileged establishments in each region, in particular through deprivation indicators established by the Quebec Ministère de l’Éducation, de l’Enseignement supérieur et de la Recherche, namely, the socio-economic indicator and the low-income cutoff (LICO). The groups of children receiving books are then selected in line with the availability of books by age group, in such a way as to ensure fair distribution. The books are always distributed to a group of children, a class for instance, to avoid stigmatizing the most underprivileged children in the group. See the list of establishments in your region.
The books are distributed to the children during the first week of May.
The collection period runs primarily during the Holiday Season, when bookstores are very busy. This allows us to raise the awareness of a larger number of people to the cause while benefiting from the spirit of giving characteristic of Christmastime. At the end of the campaign, all the books are inspected, sorted, classified by age group and compiled by region. Thus the books are prepared for forwarding to the children at more than 550 establishments. From February to April, our little team devote all their time to this, so that is why the books are distributed in the spring.
The results are disseminated at the time of the distribution, in May.
In early May, the establishments giving out books are invited to organize special activities around the distribution so as to create a true reading festival.
You will probably receive the postcard after the distribution, during the summer. The Foundation has no control over whether the children mail the postcards.