Food For the Brain

These days, with summer giving way to autumn and the daylight hours shrinking by the minute, we are hearing other bad news too. The pandemic is in a second wave. How are we going to fill all the dark cold hours that lie ahead?

One thing everyone is doing a lot more of is…No I’m not talking about baking, or walking, or watching the latest Trump fiasco. Something more cerebral – reading! Newspapers, best-selling novels, magazines, even store ads – all are flying off the shelves during these lonely times. We crave an escape, away from our worries and into another world where we can find somebody or something else to think about.

But not everyone has access to decent print material. Children, especially in low-income families, are deprived. Store-bought books are expensive, regular schooling is not available to everyone, and libraries have limited access. So how to help? One day I was walking past a local church and I saw a long line of people waiting, some of them with kids beside them and wagons trailing behind. I soon discovered that it was a Food Bank. And it was really busy. But those kids dragging along; they seemed bored. They needed a book!

A few phone calls later an idea was born. “Get reading! Food For the Brain!” After we got the OK from the Food Bank and a place to hand out books to kids, we needed the books. I mentioned this idea to some friends, many of them YOU dear readers! Soon I had people cleaning out cupboards, searching in basements, and dropping off books, lots of them. One family actually donated 97 books, most of them nearly new.

Meanwhile I contacted the library next to the church, and the librarian said my call was timely; they were culling their shelves and would be happy to donate the children’s books. Otherwise the books would be going into recycling. What a shame! A few days later the librarian called back to say the books were ready for pick-up. Did I have a car? A Big car? Oh oh…..

I conscripted my dear husband Peter and we took his SUV to the library. There on the curb were bags and bags of books. We estimated about 250 books in total. They were in good shape too! We drove them to the church for storage. Samantha, the person who had agreed to take this project on with me, looked a little worried. It seems that the church, like many of us, has a shortage of storage space. We loaded the books into Sam’s office: on the floor, under the side table, and finally onto her desk. She said she would find somewhere else to work.

Next, Sam and I walked around the neighbourhood, putting up flyers on hydro poles, in apartment lobbies, in bus shelters; anywhere we thought the flyers would be seen by people who used food banks. The flyer announced the day the project would start – September 23. We hoped that at least a few families would take advantage. We really needed to unload all those books!

Well I am happy to say that, in the first week we gave out about 50 books. The second week was just as good. A few children showed up and were delighted to pick out their own book, but it was mostly parents choosing for their child. They had special requests too. “My son hates reading but do you have any books on basketball?” “My daughter Loves unicorns. Are there any unicorn books?” And a scary one: “I don’t have any kids, but do you have any adult books?” Oops…if we took on adult books, Sam would have to move out of her office entirely.

I went home feeling pretty upbeat about all this, despite the work involved. Then the librarian called again to say they had more books available, another 250 at least. Yikes! It seems we may have created a pandemic monster! A literate one at least.


PS No picture due to technical difficulties. Go read a book instead!

7 thoughts on “Food For the Brain

  1. I don’t know why you hang around with the likes of me. You are so much better. What a great idea and so typical of you. Kind, selfish, generous and innovated. You go girl!


  2. Great idea, Sue. And congratulations on making it happen (with a little help from your friends)! We have a similar program here in Prince Edward County that is a huge success, having started out much like yours did. Children –even reluctant readers– are much more engaged when they can choose their own books about topics that interest them, and become lifelong readers. Hurray!!!


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