Article by: Doug Gallant
When people speak of the legacy of the 2023 Canada Winter Games the conversation usually focuses on two things, the lifelong memories people take away from the Games and the new sports facilities the Games leave behind.
But this year that legacy has grown to include more than 3,000 books for children donated by athletes, coaches and supporters from every province in the country.
The books were donated as part of a new social legacy initiative undertaken by the PEI. 2023 Canada Winter Games Host Society in partnership with the PEI Literacy Alliance.
The Canada Games for Literacy donation program kicked into high gear Thursday with a celebration at the new Charlottetown Library Learning Centre where athletes from all 13 provincial and territorial teams made contributions to the program. They were joined by hundreds of children who were excited to take home free books.
Wayne Carew, Chair of the PEI 2023 Canada Winter Games Host Society, said the Canada Games for Literacy program was the idea of Games staff who wanted to do something special for the Games.
“As you know, we have tried to do a number of cultural events around the games and the response to this program has been overwhelming. You can hardly navigate your way through the room here this morning.”
He was thrilled with the number of books donated to the program and excited by the potential benefits of getting these books into the hands of Island children. Carew pointed to studies that show that if a family has 20 or more books in the home the increase in the literacy level is exponential.
“The more books they have access to the greater the likelihood they will be successful in life,” Carew said.
Amanda Beazley, Director of Programs for the PEILiteracy Alliance, applauded the PEI 2023 Canada Games for the literacy initiative.
“What this means is that many more children are going to get free books, and books that are new and relevant to social, emotional learning.” Beazley said. “It means that we’re leaving a lasting legacy for our community by having the 2023 Canada Games held here in Prince Edward Island. Kids right across the Island will benefit.”
She said the donation of about 3,000 books was amazing. “Athletes and volunteers made this effort to contribute to literacy in PEI.”
Beazley also noted that children actually got to choose the books they took home as opposed to someone else choosing for them.
“I think it’s fabulous that they get to choose their own book. When they get to choose what they want to read, they are more likely to be engaged in reading and that inspires a love of reading and a love of storytelling.”
Books not chosen Thursday will go to the PEI Literacy Alliance for distribution to children across the Island.
Children attending Thursday’s literacy event were treated to cupcakes, popcorn, and soft drinks. They also had the opportunity to play games and take home Canada Games souvenirs. The highlight for many of them was a visit from the mascot, Wowkwis.
Games athletes happily circulated through the crowd, posing for pictures with children, playing games, reading stories, and helping them choose books.
While the program accepted all types of children’s books, it was strongly recommended that people donate books in both French and English that encompass the themes of resiliency, perseverance, and strength — representing the hard-fought journey of young Canada Games athletes.
The program demonstrated the connection between sport and literacy, and how they each play a significant role in children’s learning and skills development.
“We know that when children participate in sport and have the proper access to literacy, it improves their leadership skills, self-esteem, and overall well-being,” Ellis said.
To learn more about the PEI Literacy Alliance, please visit peiliteracy.ca