Interested in Volunteering for the Virtual Readers and Refugees Program?

This fall, IBBY Canada’s Readers and Refugee Program showed its trademark flexibility in launching a virtual reading program. A small but enthusiastic band of volunteers are reading with children online. Their families are refugee claimants living in COSTI shelters across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Each week we connect with them in their homes via Google Meet and read together. Although meeting online and sharing books over a small screen is not without its complications — the boys I read with are unfailingly patient, politely asking, “Can you move the book a bit to the right, please.” — we enjoy our time reading together. And, the technology has allowed us to make connections across the country in new ways. From her home in Winnipeg, Marcella Mangarelli reads with children in the GTA. As she says so eloquently, “Doing the reading program online is a challenge but it’s a tool to reach out to the kids with books. I realize the stories’ power to bring hope, imagination and curiosity to readers.”

We are looking for more virtual IBBY Canada readers. COSTI families are waiting to be matched with a volunteer. And, Christie Refugee Welcome Centre has also expressed enthusiasm for launching a virtual program this winter. If you’re interested in adding more laughter, some occasional dancing and lots of wonderful books to your week, contact Patti McIntosh ( or me ( to learn more about the program.

Contributed by Mary Beth Leatherdale

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