Courtenay Elementary School parent Kindle Parsons looked at the Comox Valley Food Bank across the road from the school and came up with an idea, a Book Bank for students.
Students simply choose free books from the Book Bank that they want to take home as their own, and Parsons says the kids seem excited.
“It’s fun because … there’s a connection that’s like, ‘I get to have a book?’ Like, they’re happy, they’re smiling, they get choices,” says Parsons. “They get to have it and take it home, and it’s their book — pride of ownership — they’re starting their own home library.”
Parsons noticed the school has a high ratio of low-income families, and she points out it can be hard for parents to buy books for their kids when they need to focus on clothing and feeding them and paying rent.
According to the Fraser Institute’s statistics for 2011/2012, Courtenay Elementary parents have a low average income compared to other elementary schools in the Valley. For example, Brooklyn’s average income is $68,800, Cumberland’s is $61,400, École Puntledge Park’s is $46,700, and Arden’s is $46,300, but Courtenay’s is $33,900.
Parsons notes the Book Bank started unofficially last year when Comox Valley Book Friends donated about 300 books to the school. Many of them went into the school library, but some extras, like repeats of the same book, were put on display at the school for kids to take home free.
“We had so many books and they walked out of that school so fast,” recalls Parsons, adding that in June the Book Bank received about 60 books from the Rotary Club of Courtenay. “So, we put like 60 books out on the shelf — gone before summer, so we knew it worked.”
Principal Kyle Timms offered to find a bookshelf over the summer, and the Book Bank got a designated spot in the school hallway. Parsons says the kids are so interested in having the books the bookshelf could be stocked every two to three weeks.
In September, she submitted her idea for a book bank to the Aviva Community Fund, which hands out $1 million to various community ideas across the country. She could have free books shipped from First Book Canada, but must pay about 75 cents per book to ship them. If she’s awarded money from the fund, she plans to get some of those free books shipped to the school’s Book Bank.
The public votes on the ideas and the first qualifying round closes Oct. 14 with the winning ideas chosen by Jan. 28. Parsons’ idea is called Free Book Bank for kids and can be found at www.avivacommunityfund.org.
Parsons says she likely won’t win the competition because there are thousands of ideas submitted, but she says already she’s had some local response to her idea she’s thrilled about.
“Through Facebook, I have asked people to vote,” says Parsons. “Today, I have had four people contact me through Facebook saying, ‘We’re going to set up a book bin at our work and we’re going to ask our customers to donate books.'”
Anyone interested in donating new or gently-used, current books to the Book Bank can drop books off at Courtenay Elementary School (1540 McPhee Ave.) or e-mail Kindle Parsons at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Everyone has books — a lot of people donate them to different places or even recycle them when they’re done,” says Parsons. “So, what I’m trying do is move books from other places in the Valley, from being your closet or in your garage, to being in our school and let the kids choose the book — that means a lot to them.”