More Than Just a Free Book: TD Grade One Giveaway Program

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Reading is a skill as adults we use everyday: reading street signs helps us to find out how to get to our favourite restaurant; following the directions on our grandmother’s lasagna recipe enables us to make dinner for our family; it even allows us to escape into a world of history, romance, fact and imagination when we read for pleasure. As parents we want to instill the importance of reading with our own kids but also the joy it brings.

At EverythingMom we love reading with our kids and sharing our favourite finds within our Kid’s Book Review section. td_grade_1_book_giveaway_bkTD Bank Group and The Canadian Children’s Book Center both understand the importance of children discovering the joy of reading too. Since 2000, the Canadian Children’s Book Centre has given every grade one student a free Canadian children’s book (in cooperation with ministries of education, school boards and library organizations across Canada). The program known as the TD Grade One Book Giveaway is fully funded by the TD Bank Group.

At an afternoon tea I had a chance to meet the author and illustrator of this year’s book as well as learn a little more about the TD Grade One Book Giveaway program.

Although most kids in grade one may not yet know how to read, it’s this emergent reader in them that makes them an ideal candidate for the TD Grade One Book Giveaway program. When a child enters grade one, they should know their letter names and sounds, they probably know how to blend sounds together to make words, they might even know a few words by sight. Grade one is a time where kids take these letter and word skills and translate them into reading. They start to learn to read, together with their parents and slowly on their own. The Grade One TD Book Giveaway program taps into and builds upon a child’s growing love of a new skill.

But how to choose the book from the many wonderful Canadian books published each year?

Along with choosing a book that is Canadian, there are many other considerations that are taken into account. It has to:

  • be a really good book
  • appeal to half a million kids without offending their background, religion, heritage
  • be of interest to both boys and girls
  • have longevity so kids (and parents) want to read more than once
  • not be a recent book

This October, grade one children from across Canada will receive a copy of Gifts, this year’s TD Grade One Book Giveaway, written by Jo Ellen Bogart and illustrated by Barbara Reid.

Below is a synopsis of Gifts from the publisher Scholastic Canada:

A little girl’s grandmother travels the world and brings her back the gifts of love and respect for a hundred different places.

Along with meeting the requirements outlined above, Charlotte Teeple, Executive Director for the CCBC, shared why Gifts specifically was chosen as this year’s book for the TD Grade One Book Giveaway program.

“[It has the] perfect amount of pictures to illustrations. Some picture books are really wordy. These are books that are for kids who are still reading with their parents and just learning to read. The book is for young kids but it’s not babyish. It suits boys and girls. It has something nice to say about families and new adventures and travel without being didactic. It’s beautifully illustrated, beautifully written. It filled all the criteria.”

According to Charlotte, many teachers incorporate in-class activities around the TD Grade One Book Giveaway and Gifts lends itself beautifully to tying into other school subjects such as social studies and geography. You can find a few activities relate to the book on the Canadian Children’s Book Center’s. Plus, most kids have grandparents and Gifts deals with that special bond between grandparents and kids.

As for the TD Bank Group’s role with The Canadian Children’s Book Centre and the book giveaway program, Alan Convery, National Manager Community Relations, TD Bank Group, explains that, “Between the TD Grade One Giveaway, the TD Canadian Book Week, the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Awards and the books that are administered to all those programs for us, that along with our TD Summer Reading Club which is a library based initiate; these are our flagship programs for the bank. They’re something we want to be known for and participate with. Part of it is this whole focus on books for literacy for us….encourage the joy of reading… If you can get them to enjoy reading, they’re going to want to read,”

You might think it’s just a book, but to many children it’s more than that, as Sheila Barry, President of the board of directors for the CCBC, explains,

“The nicest thing about this program …Meeting an author and illustrator is wonderful and having good libraries is essential but a lot of these books are going to go to kids that don’t have books at home. This might be the first book anyone has ever given them as a gift. It’s not a schoolbook, it’s not a textbook, it’s not some kind of boring tedious thing. In their own minds it’s purely, and in this case highly appropriately, just a pure gift.”

Obviously kids, parents and teachers agree according to the countless letters and emails TD Bank Group and The Canadian Children’s Book Center receive each year. Remembering some of the heartfelt stories both Charlotte Teepleand Alan Convery shared with us that afternoon still make my heart swell and tears flow.


Photo: Barbara Reid, illustrator; Alan Convery, National Manager Community Relations, TD Bank Group; Jo Ellen Bogart, author; Charlotte Teeple, Executive Director for the Canadian Children’s Book Center

The TD Grade One Book Giveaway is the only Canadian program that doesn’t give a book based on need; everyone (in grade one) gets a copy of the book whether they attend a private school, live in a remote community, or are homeschooled.

As part of the TD Grade One Giveaway, the Jo Ellen and Barbara will be touring across Canada, visiting some of these communities that will be receiving the book in their schools. Having the chance to meet the author and illustrator and hear the book read can be a thrill but as Jo Ellen points out, the author of Gifts, these tours also help build on the creative team’s talent.

“I’ve seen so much of Canada. And the more I see, the better I can write, for those children. I mean I’ve been to the arctic twice. “

“I’ve spent two week on Baffin Island because of a book and it changed everything. It’s helping us relate back to our audiences. And when you visit schools you see a community in a way you don’t see it as a tourist,” said Barbara Reid, illustrator of Gifts.

If you visit the site TeachingBooks.net you can watch a great video of Jo Ellen and Barbara Reid talking about the making of Gifts.

Sometimes we take for granted the books we have at home and the libraries we have in our community. I think it’s great that programs like the TD Grade One Book Giveaway exist and that The Canadian Chidlren’s Book Centre and the TD Bank Group continue to support them.

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