Reading is fundamental and a good book can literally change lives – but, for some youth, putting their hands on a compelling book, a gripping graphic novel, and an entertaining comic book can be a challenge.
But York Region Paramedic Services, Central York Fire Services, and the Aurora detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police, along with Welcoming Arms, have joined forces to ensure teens have access to the books and stories that they love.
The local first responders came together for the cause earlier this year, keeping in mind the impact COVID-19 has had on everyone, regardless of age. They believe that a book can transport people to “wonderous places, push our minds to imagine new things, and learn about topics we have not known before. It can provide an escape and joy in these challenging times.”
Over the last few months, the four organizations have been accepting donations of new books, novels, comic books and graphic novels at the local OPP detachment at 100 Bloomington Road West, Fire Station 4-4 on Wellington Street East, Station 4-1 on Gorham Street in Newmarket, and two Newmarket paramedic stations.
Scholastic Canada earlier this month made a significant contribution to their efforts, donating multiple boxes of new books to Welcoming Arms which will be distributed to local youth, teens and tweens.
“Generally speaking, our teens and tweens, I think, get lost in the mix,” says OPP Sergeant Clayton Brown. “You hear about toy drives, which are for young kids, but teens and tweens seem to be forgotten about. This is an opportunity to do something for them. Particularly with COVID going on, there are a lot of kids who are struggling out there so it is a way to provide something positive and some kind of escape. I think reading is very powerful and can be very positive and uplifting.
“This is a book drive for youth and I think if we don’t say that, you’re going to get your Ken Follets, your Grisham books, and you’re going to get the stuff that’s big sellers, but ideally what we’re looking for is that young adult teen stuff, in a perfect world. Having said that, if [a book store] says ‘we have all these Top 20 books’ we’re not going to turn it away, but we’re really trying to get that market that seems to be forgotten. If people want to contribute, that is what we’re looking for. With comics being donated, it is kind of an outside-the-box idea, but you have these kids who have been hit with COVID, they don’ t have summer jobs, and are struggling in that way. This is something that they probably wouldn’t do for themselves and that is what we’re looking for here: that little something positive.”
That donation from Scholastic was a “big something positive” with “a few hundred” books coming in from them in their October donation, but smaller businesses are contributing as well, including R&D Comics based in the St. Andrew’s Village Plaza set to host a live event for the book drive later this fall before they bring the campaign to a close in the first week of December.
“This will give us the opportunity with Welcoming Arms to go and do the deliveries,” says Sergeant Brown. “The plan is to go until the first week of December to give Welcoming Arms the opportunity to do that last delivery to our youth in the community before we all get really busy.
“We would love to know of a kid who taps into a new author, or discovers these comic books and says, ‘I never get to buy comic books because I don’t get to go out and do that for myself.’ That kind of feedback, I think, makes it all worth while. For me, reading is always worthwhile and having that enthusiasm, that energy to find a new author they keep with them as they grow up is what we want to hear.
“You don’t have to look too far to see the impact of who it is we’re trying to help. Even if you don’t have kids in your life or don’t have youth in your life, this is your opportunity to have that positive impact on someone else’s kids.”
If you would like to make an impact, new books can be donated to the OPP Detachment between 8.30 a.m. – 4.30 p.m., Monday to Friday, at either fire station between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., and at the York Region Paramedic Services Stations (135 Aspenwood and 45 Harry Walker Parkway, Newmarket) between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran