Toronto firm puts books in the hands of children with greatest need

The head of an agency promoting youth literacy says books in the hands of children can change the future.

On Feb. 10, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) in partnership with First Book Canada, hosted a reading event at the First Nations School of Toronto. The event acknowledged Tata’s donation of 1,000 new books to the First Nations School of Toronto, just south of the Danforth. Wayne Cochrane, the director of operations for First Book Canada, explained the importance of the gift.

“I think the biggest barrier to literacy is lack of access to books,” he said. “Kids who don’t have access to books won’t be able to read, which affects their performance at school, which could affect success in their future. This is why we do what we do.”

First Book Canada donates about a million books a year to schools. In its partnership with First Book Canada, Tata provides the finances for events such as the one at the First Nations School, explained Sarah Matheson, head of the sustainability of Tata, in Washington D.C.

“It is part of our ongoing 10-year relationship with First Book Canada,” she said. “We have given more than 400,000 books to educators and students in U.S. and Canada. The intention is to give books to students who would not have access to books, hence the name First Book.”

Twenty employees from TCS, as well as two representatives of First Book and Doris Burrows, the librarian at the First Nations School, co-ordinated the event. About 50 students from the school’s kindergarten through Grade 4 classes attended.

Susan Hughes, an award-winning children’s author, spoke to the students about creativity. Then she read a few stories from her own books for the children and the volunteers.

“Having my ideas turned into actual books and shared with real kids is phenomenal,” Hughes said. Then, she praised the school’s professionals.

“I really respect teachers and librarians because their job is so difficult and they leave a huge impact in the lives of these kids,” she said. “I think they are … the unsung heroes of society.”