Raise-a-Reader: Burnaby Neighbourhood House distributes books

Burnaby Neighborhood House gave away over 3,000 books this year.

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With the help of Raise-a-Reader funds, Burnaby Neighborhood House hosted virtual readings by Harman Pandher of his book Gurpreet Goes to Gurdwara.  He is seen here reading at Beaver Creek Elementary School, where he teaches.
With the help of Raise-a-Reader funds, Burnaby Neighborhood House hosted virtual readings by Harman Pandher of his book Gurpreet Goes to Gurdwara. He is seen here reading at Beaver Creek Elementary School, where he teaches. Photo by Gurpreet Andrews /jpeg

People looking for books have a friend at Burnaby Neighborhood House. Twice a year, the Community Hub puts together “literacy baskets” of books, coloring pages, activity sheets, and community resource information in multiple languages.

“We buy books from First Book Canada and receive donations from libraries, even though that ended with COVID,” said Lukas Park, literacy outreach coordinator for Literacy Now Burnaby, a program at BNH. “My volunteer team and I sort through them and separate them into fiction and non-fiction. Once we have a decent amount of books, we start distributing them.”

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The baskets contain three new books, but people can take home as many donated books as they want.

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“We’ve let people go home with boxes,” Park said. “A lady had left her library in her home country and spent an hour searching through all of our books to replenish her library in her new home. If people want books, we let them take as many as they want.”

The Sun’s Raise-a-Reader campaign, which has raised over $21 million since 1997, is helping fund purchases of the new books.

Other literacy initiatives at Burnaby Neighborhood House include readings. Last year, Harman Pandher met with Burnaby primary school students to read from his book Gurpreet Goes to Gurdwara: Understanding the Sikh Place of Worship. The three virtual live readings were made possible by raise-a-reader means.

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“It shares my faith and culture as a Sikh,” Pandher said of the book.

The students have different backgrounds, he says.

“There were some groups with no Sikh children, but they loved the story. I find this book opens up so many discussions about shared experiences and customs that we have in common. And we hear about each other’s traditions and the uniqueness of different faiths and cultures.”

He was impressed by the children’s commitment.

“Every time there were questions that I heard for the first time,” he said. “The book deals with what happens in a gurdwara but seen through the eyes of a six-year-old boy. So he’s at that age where he’s wondering why his family does the things they do.”

The readings encouraged the children to think about their own families.

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“The book offers a glimpse into this place where many of them have never been. But there were also children from South Asia on these visits, and for these Sikh students it is a reflection of their identity. They get a sense of pride and see themselves and their experiences reflected in history.”

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Pandhar has released a new children’s book, Welcome to Paldi: A Place for All, about the history of what was once the country’s largest Sikh community on Vancouver Island.

Meanwhile, Park is preparing to give away more reading baskets. He estimates that Burnaby Neighborhood House gave away over 3,000 books this year.

“We get a lot of cookbooks,” he said. “The children’s books go particularly quickly.”

Most of the donated books are in English.

“We occasionally get some in Mandarin, and we’ve had some in Korean and Spanish. We have to work on that. Demand for the children’s books in Arabic and Farsi, that’s what people are asking for. And people ask for dictionaries.”

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How to donate

Since its inception in 1997, Raise-a-Reader has raised more than $21 million to promote literacy in BC. The literacy campaign supports provincial-wide programs like Partners in Education Plus, offered by the Canucks Family Education Center. The Canucks Center offers family literacy programs through intergenerational and lifelong learning support, supported in part by Raise-a-Reader.

You can donate at any time. Here’s how:

• Online at raiseareader.com

• By phone at 604.681.4199

• By check payable to Vancouver Sun Raise-a-Reader:

1125 Howe Street, No. 980

Vancouver, BC V6Z 2K8

Facebook: facebook.com/raiseareadervan/

Twitter: @RARvancouver

Literacy is a tool that everyone needs

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The literacy skills of nearly half of British Columbians aged 16 to 65 could make it difficult for them to understand newspapers, follow instruction manuals, read health information, fill out a tax return, read a rental agreement or rent a car, according to Decoda Library catalog to use Literacy Solutions, the provincial BC literacy organization.

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And about half of the province’s age-match population may have trouble calculating interest on a car loan, using information on a chart, or determining medication dosages, according to Decoda, which provides resources, training, funding and support for community-based literacy programs and initiatives in over 400 BC communities.

About 16 percent of British Columbians (or 700,000) achieved Level 1 literacy or below, according to an international survey (the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Skills) of 27,000 Canadians in 2012.

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Level 1 literacy means learning how to complete a form at work, navigate a website, find information on a list sent home from preschool, use information on a grocery label, or do comparison shopping battle.

It is said that improved literacy at home can help Canadians enjoy better health, manage their finances, understand their rights and responsibilities and legal processes, and pass on their literacy skills to their children.

At work, it can also improve job prospects, increase income, reduce work-related stress by being more efficient and accurate at work, and increase the likelihood of participating in adult education and vocational training.

And in the community, it can increase community participation and volunteering and political engagement, and increase the likelihood of inclusion in society.

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