Each year in October, TD Bank Group adds glamour to the Canadian children’s literature scene, sponsoring the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Awards gala in Toronto and a parallel event in Montreal for literature in French, including the premiere prizes of C$30,000 for the most distinguished book of the year in each language. But more important for Canadian children is the bank’s ongoing commitment to providing essential funds to promote children’s literacy throughout the year.
This year, TD is devoting C$3.9 million to programs designed to nurture literacy and a love of reading, including putting books into the hands of children. Beyond that, it will spend more than C$1 million in marketing dollars, according to Alan Convery, TD’s national manager of community relations, who directs all of the bank’s sponsorship of children’s literature, literacy, and reading programs.
Each fall, TD also sponsors the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s TD Grade One Book Giveaway program that gives a book to every child in grade one across the country. It amounts to about 550,000 books each year, but Convery says this year’s printing of Boy Soup (La soupe de garçons), written by Loris Lesynski, illustrated by Michael Martchenko, and published by Annick Press, was closer to 650,000, so that there would be extras to give away beyond the school program.
TD in Canada and in the U.S. also partner with First Book, which has distributed more than 100 million new, donated books to children in need throughout North America. This year, TD is also providing a $61,000 grant to First Book Canada’s Marketplace initiative, which provides funds to schools and organizations to buy the books of their choice, which publishers provide at deeply discounted rates. (An additional $50,000 went to schools in the U.S.) “TD Bank Group stepped up right away when the First Book Canada Marketplace was established and gave 50 high-needs groups significant grants,” Tom Best, First Book Canada’s executive director, tells PW. “I can’t begin to tell you how meaningful those grants were for the children from low income families in those groups. Teachers and community organizers were able to select the very best books for these children and allowed them to take them home. For many, these are the very first books they have ever owned.” Next spring, TD employees in both Canada and the U.S. will be visiting schools with First Book and reading to the children.
TD is also the lead sponsor of the National Reading Campaign, which is just launching in Canada this fall. The campaign is aimed at cultivating a love of reading throughout the whole of Canadian society, but TD’s sponsorship is focused at portions of the campaign aimed at children. Patsy Aldana, one of the co-founders of the campaign and the founder of Groundwood Books, tells PW that TD’s funding and sponsorship of reading promotion projects for children is “exceptional…. The National Reading Campaign has been extremely lucky to have such a good partner in our work aimed at ensuring that Canada is and remains a nation of readers. Both the NRC and TD understand that if children do not learn to love to read, we will have problems of adult literacy and reading in the future. People I meet around the world are astonished to discover that there is such a forward-looking bank in Canada.”
Each spring, TD also sponsors the TD Canadian Children’s Book Week, which sends 30 authors and illustrators out to schools and community centers across the country, particularly in remote areas such as Canada’s North, to inspire Canadian children to read. In his travels with the bank, Convery has opportunities to see the magic that happens when the authors and illustrators, who he says are generally great storytellers, meet the children. “If you could capture that and bottle it and put it in the libraries and the bookstores, it would make a big difference,” he says.