Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Jack Knox: The Times Colonist book sale is back, and that's good news for literacy groups

Happily, the Times Colonist book sale is back on the calendar, with the drop-off April 30 and May 1 and the sale on May 14 and May 15.

Different kids learn in different ways. The challenge for this boy is that the way schools teach reading didn’t work for him. Wrong key for the lock, is the way his mother put it. He wasn’t keeping up.

That worried the West Shore woman. She knows the value of literacy — and recognizes the lifelong implications of being left behind.

That’s what led them to the LDABC Learning Curve, a Victoria non-profit where reading specialists and volunteers give struggling children the help they need to stay afloat.

For the boy, who has been going for twice-a-week sessions since January, it has been like flipping a switch. “Things are making sense that didn’t make sense before,” the mother says. Her boy is making making big strides. She sounds relieved.

That’s the good news. The bad is that the pandemic has widened the gap for a lot of children who were already trailing.

“Kids who were behind before are now really behind,” says Debbie Cybulski, the executive director of the Learning Curve. It has been tough on students dealing with things like dyslexia, anxiety and attention deficit disorder. That’s reflected in the demand at her organization. There’s a wait list.

Cybulski firmly believes those kids can be helped, though. It’s a matter of having the time (some are at the Learning Curve for a few months, others for a couple of years) and the tools for the task — and thanks to supporters of the Times Colonist book sale, Cybulski’s organization will get more tools. A grant from the Times Colonist Literacy Society will pay for more of the specialized materials the Learning Curve needs.

The literacy grant is just one of 214 going out to recipients, mostly schools, on Vancouver Island this spring. The cheques add up to almost $270,000, bringing the total distributed since the first Times Colonist book sale in 1998 to just over $6 million.

It took some serious generosity from the community, augmented by a big chunk of matching provincial funds via Decoda Literacy Solutions, to raise the money for this year’s grants, as the pandemic forced the cancellation of the annual book sale in both 2020 and 2021.

Happily, the event is back on the calendar.

By now, you know how it goes: Readers donate good-quality used books, which volunteers sort for resale to the public. As has been the case since 2010, both the book collection and book sale will be held at the Victoria Curling Club at 1952 Quadra St.

The sale will take place Saturday, May 14, and Sunday, May 15.

First, though, comes the drive-through book drop-off next weekend, Saturday, April 30, and Sunday, May 1, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. If you want to donate books — and gosh, we really hope you do — there are a few things that would really help.

First, please pack them in boxes or bags that you don’t want back. Doing so speeds the unloading process.

Also, quality really does matter. No encyclopedias, textbooks, magazines, directories, outdated reference works, Reader’s Digest condensed books or National Geographics, please. Ditto for anything wet, moldy, smelly or otherwise damaged. Sorry if that sounds overly picky, but the truth is that it costs money to dispose of such stuff, which eats into the amount available for literacy grants.

If coming by car, enter off Pembroke Street between Quadra and Blanshard, then follow the volunteers’ directions. (Please don’t come in off Caledonia; the Victoria police need to use that lane.) Stay in your vehicle while the volunteers unload your books. (There’ll be a spot beside the Quadra Street sidewalk where pedestrians and cyclists can drop off books, safe from moving cars.) A hint: the line of cars can be long, so you might want to give yourself a bit of extra time when heading for the curling club.

It would be greatly appreciated if your boxes of books were small enough to be lifted by the feeble desk jockeys who toil for the TC.

It would be even more appreciated if some relatively healthy people (and, frankly, the bar isn’t that high) were to share the load. We’re looking for help with the heavy lifting on the weekend of the drop-off. (At the Times Colonist, anything weightier than a can of Lucky constitutes “heavy lifting.”)

In fact, most of those who show up to help have little to do with the newspaper. At its heart, the book drive is driven by a terrific group of community-minded volunteers. After 24 years, many are getting on, though. So, if you feel like engaging in some back-breaking unpaid labour in what we all hope is the weekend’s sunshine, please contact volunteer co-ordinator Mark Taylor at [email protected].

Thank you in advance.

[email protected]