Hoping to promote early childhood literacy, a local organization is creating book bags for young Brandon families.
The Brandon chapter of IODE, a.k.a. the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire, has been running Read With Me program for almost 30 years, said Lorna Cowan, bookbag co-ordinator and chapter vice-president. The program is designed to inspire young families to read together.
"We’ve always been interested in literacy and always had programs where we would provide books or donate books to libraries, school libraries and individuals. Literacy has been a big program all throughout [IODE]," Cowan said.
During COVID-19 the charitable organization faced a short period where it was unable to deliver book bags, but it quickly adapted and continued providing items to public health throughout the pandemic.
"The workers that greet me there are just so thrilled with the books and the book bags," Cowan said.
The greatest challenge during the global health crisis has been planning fundraisers in support of IODE to help build up funds and continue making contributions to the community, including the Read With Me program.
The chapter is running low on funds due to the pandemic interfering with fundraising, so the organization is now experiencing a shortage of books, Cowan said. They are hoping to explore different ways of building funding through donations and other grants.
The IODE received $5,000 in grant funding to support the project and provide an additional 500 book bags to the community over four years.
The rest of the time book bags and items are made and donated by IODE members.
On Wednesday Cowan had nine book bags prepared and ready to be dropped off with public health and delivered to Families First — a provincial government program that supports families with young children.
The book bags serve as an introduction to early literacy for families who have been carefully selected by Families First.
IODE donates about three bags a month, for a total of 36 each year.
The book bags are made of different materials that have been donated, creating a unique mosaic for each package.
"They’re very colourful," Cowan said.
Each bag comes with the label "Read With Me" and contains three children’s books, including the Canadian classic "Love You Forever" by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Sheila McGraw. The books included with the bags are brand-new or have been donated in like brand-new condition free of writing or other marks.
The bags are designed for preschoolers, aged five and under. The package includes a broacher from IODE along with a letter about the program and items encouraging parents to read with their children.
It is important to target early childhood literacy, Cowan said, because it can inspire young people to become lifelong readers.
"It’s encouraging early reading with your children," Cowan said.
Read With Me is one of many programs run by IODE members. Cowan said members of the charitable organization are united in doing whatever they can to help make the community better for all residents.
In June, IODE collected hygiene products, towels and other items in support of Brandon Bear Clan and The Salvation Army Brandon. Another donation drive is underway for the month of October and the group is seeking mittens and toques.
IODE is an international charitable organization. Any woman is welcome to join the Brandon chapter. For more information on IODE visit iode.ca or email email@example.com.
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