IBBY Canada launched the Reading with Newcomer Children as an in-person program in 2018, known then as Readers and Refugees, in partnership with COSTI Immigrant Services and Christie Refugee Welcome Centre in Toronto. The program pairs volunteers with refugee and immigrant children for regular meetups and read aloud of favourite books. The volunteers are teachers, students, librarians, storytellers, writers, illustrators and readers with various career and life experiences.
The Reading with Newcomer Children program grew in popularity and was resilient during the pandemic as it moved virtually; more than 30 volunteers from Halifax to Victoria read virtually every week to children based in the Greater Toronto Area.
With four successful years under its belt, IBBY Canada was inspired to host a virtual appreciation event on November 29, 2022 to thank everyone who participated in the program and to celebrate the return of in-person readings at several refugee centres across Canada. At the event, books beloved by volunteers were read aloud by the authors: Nadia Hohn read Malaika’s Winter Carnival, Barbara Reid shared Snow Day, and Senneh Yee presented My Day with Gong Gong.
IBBY’s goal for the program is to create a more inclusive world by connecting children to books that ignite the imagination and promote understanding and friendship between cultures worldwide. Through the power of books, we build a more equitable and connected world. One of the participant parents, Wafa Chenouf, attested to this, at the event:
They [volunteers] really have been amazing with them [my children]. Zara, Sandra, Esme, and Kimberly did their best to help my kids be more confident in their learning process, enjoy reading, and develop their love for stories. My daughter loved the fact that Kimberly and Esme were very kind and did their best to find her favourite books. She was always excited to know what will happen in the next chapter. I also saw my little boy, who was not able to respond when he got asked (how are you?), read a whole book by himself. I saw him enjoying the stories Zara and Sandra read to him and talking about his interests and his days with confidence. He started little by little mixing French with some words of English and they developed a bilingual program just to help him in his learning journey, and today he enjoys reading in both languages, and the most important is that he is always excited to read with his storyteller fairy.
Before the event ended, IBBY Canada introduced new branding for the Reading with Newcomer Children program, beautifully designed by Minal Khakar, with a colourful logo and inspiring tagline: Let’s Fly Together! IBBY Canada is giving wings to these young newcomers to fly high in their new life journey.
Contributed by Shamaila Siddique, Liaison CANSCAIP