ZYTARUK: You can’t read about Fluffy if you don’t know how

Amazingly, according to First Book Canada, 25 per cent of Canadian households don’t have in their possession a single book.

Tom Zytaruk is a reporter with the Surrey Now newspaper. He can be reached at tom.zytaruk@thenownewspaper.com

So let it be written…


I guess there are only so many newspaper stories and columns you can read about shootings in Surrey. Not that they shouldn’t be written or read, but man-o-man, it’s more than a bummer, right?

These will, of course, continue to be written as the city struggles to navigate its way out of this violent mess.

But for today’s column, I thought I’d write something fluffy instead.

Or rather, about something fluffy.

“Fluffy Strikes Back,” that is.

The scene is a book reading at Old Yale Elementary School in Whalley, this past Friday morning.

The author/illustrator – Delta’s own Ashley Spires – is reading excerpts from her latest book, “Fluffy Strikes Back,” to a gymnasium filled with 108 little folk who are sitting cross-legged on the floor.

Her audience of Grade One and Two students seems more than happy to be there. Whether it’s because they’re ardent fans, or just glad to be enjoying a mini-trip outside the classroom, is a secret known only to them and the reading faerie.

Spires is also author of a series of junior graphic novels featuring Binky the Space Cat, and Larf, Small Saul and the Most Magnificent Thing. She signed and gave each student a copy of “Fluffy Strikes Back” while volunteers from Corus Entertainment and TD read to the children.

The event was staged by an outfit called First Book Canada.

That kids are reading books in a school isn’t particularly newsworthy because that’s what they’re supposed to be doing, yes?

But what is newsworthy is the reason why First Book Canada is staging such events. Amazingly, according to the organization, 25 per cent of Canadian households don’t have in their possession a single book.

As the author of two books and a guy with a BA in English literature, I find that simply horrifying.

And yet, it’s a fact not so entirely surprising, as many of these children will soon be, if they are not already, relying on little smiley/sad face/whatever face icons to express their innermost emotional feelings to one another whilst texting away in truncated techno-anglo gibberish.

According to First Book Canada, in some of Canada’s poorest neighbourhoods there is only one book available for every 200 children.


Thankfully, First Book Canada is working hard to change that by making books available to schools in low-income areas, with help from corporate partners like TD and Corus.

Tom Best, the executive director of First Book Canada, notes that “learning to read is critical to a child’s success – both in school and in life” and that “literacy is one of the best predictors of a child’s future success.”

Of course, illiterate kids often grow up to be illiterate adults. According to the Excellence in Literacy Foundation, 42 per cent of Canadians are semi-illiterate.

Let’s remember, reading isn’t just something you do while chilling out in your hammock. We need to be able to read to train for employment, comprehend driving manuals, understand directions on prescription medicine bottles…

Thankfully, last year alone First Book Canada gave more that one million books to school children nationwide and to date has with its partner First Book U.S. distributed no fewer than 130 million books, either free or at low cost, to children who need them.

Now that’s something to crow about.

Or purr about, if you will.

(Fluffy’s a cat, don’t you know).


So let it be done…

Tom Zytaruk is a staff writer with the Now. Email him at tom.zytaruk@thenownewspaper.com

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