For fifth and sixth graders at Salt Spring Centre School, reading is a way to relieve stress, be creative in your own head and also raise thousands of dollars for a local cause.
The seven-member class got together ahead of the holidays and decided to read as much as possible and gather pledges along the way from friends and family. The read-a-thon brought in over $2,000 and the class decided the Salt Spring Island Harvest Food Bank was the place these hard-earned dollars should go.
Olivia Novak brought the idea to her class, having done her first read-a-thon on her own when she was 10. Living in Vancouver at the time, she remembered feeling sad, guilty and unable to do anything to help people experiencing homelessness in her city. She decided to act by reading 11 books and gathering $1,000 in pledges, with a matching donor who brought her donation to Vancouver’s Convenant House to $3,000.
Olivia’s little sister Emilie, 8, also got on board this year and read Judy Blume’s Fudge books, as well as The Nevergirls. The sisters raised $1,803.
“We’re like a reading family,” said Olivia. “We usually read with our mom, stay up super late and read by the fire . . . My dad’s reading too.”
Everyone in the class went about choosing the books they liked and gathering funds their own way.
“I’m not the fastest reader, I just like to enjoy the book,” said Aliza Lindzon-Graham, who read The Hidden Kingdom, book three in the Wings of Fire series, every night before bed. Each chapter brought in $2 for the read-a-thon.
Julia Bowland gathered $2 per book, reading 10 books in four short days. Bowland prefers to read graphic novel format as “it gives you more context because there’s more pictures, and it gives you the whole story but with less words.”
“It’s like you’re living in the book, it’s like you’re seeing it happen almost. It’s really, really calming and it kind of feels like a TV show but better,” said Olivia Novak of her joy of reading. Among other books, she read the Hunger Games series, as well as Divergent and The One and Only Ivan.
The fundraising effort was a collaborative one, said teacher Daniel Squizzato, as was choosing where the funds should go.
“It’s local and many different types of people, including kids, benefit,” he said of the reason the class chose the food bank.
“It’s such a small population, we’re going to make a pretty big impact,” Lindzon-Graham said.
“It feels really good, and I’m happy I did it,” said Emilie Novak. “I want them to feel like we do, to have a home . . . because no one should feel like they’re not wanted or something.”
For people wondering what books to stick their noses into over the holiday, Lindzon-Graham’s reading list may inspire. She’ll be reading The Marrow Thieves, The Hobbit and the fourth Wings of Fire book.
Olivia said she hopes to turn the read-a-thon into a yearly tradition. And for people who might be feeling a little helpless with what is happening in the world or in their community, she recommends to “just try.”
“It doesn’t always have to work but you can at least try, then you’ll know. If you never try then you’ll never know what you can do,” she said.