Monday, August 23, 2010

Canadian children's author Helaine Becker organizes book drive for LA school

Shocked by the empty library bookshelves during an author visit to a Los Angeles-area elementary school, children’s book author Helaine Becker is taking action. She’s started a campaign to put books in the hands of disadvantaged children in LA, and, just as important, is bringing attention to the alarming state of Canadian school libraries.

Becker, an award-winning Toronto area author, has written over 40 books for children, including Science on the Loose and What's the Big Idea and is known for her wacky, off beat humour for the younger set.

In a recent trip to California, Becker collected over 650 books (most were discards from more affluent schools) for Barton Elementary School, located in an inner city area of Long Beach.

Books not up to library standards were given directly to the children and for most of these children, it was the first time they had ever owned a book or even read for pleasure. Now back in Canada, Helaine is spearheading a campaign — Airlift to LA — to stock the shelves of another Los Angeles-area elementary school in the Compton district.

“The real problem we are trying to address is the systemic problems we face on both sides of the border. Almost none of the school libraries [in Canada or the US] I visit are up to standards set by the Canadian Library Association,” says Becker who authored a document that allows the public to determine how their school libraries stack up.

Becker has partnered with Sandra Tsing-Loh, columnist and local celebrity in the LA-area and an advocate for public education, and Rebecca Constantino, founder of Access Books — a non-profit organization which organizes book drives and funding for underserviced school libraries. Last week, Becker shipped approximately 1200 books from over a hundred Canadian authors, publishers and the public to LA. in advance of the book presentation event at Ralph Bunche Elementary School, October 2, 2010.

The event will include author presentations by several Canadian writers including Becker, Wendy Kitts, Rob Weston and Kari-Lynn Winters who will also help refurbish the Bunche school library by sorting and cataloguing books and painting wall murals with the students.

For more information on Airlift to LA go here.
If you want to contribute a book, please contact Helaine a: for details of how and where to send it.

To see how your school library “stacks up,” download the Canadian Coalition for School Libraries and Canadian Association for School Libraries Library/Media Assessment Questionnaire here.

For information about Brian Henry's writing workshops and creative writing courses, see here.

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