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Jack Knox: The Times Colonist book sale is back, boosting Island literacy

Book drop-off on April 22, 23; book sale May 6, 7. At the Victoria Curling Club.
Final preparations before opening to the public at the Times Colonist Book Sale in May 2022. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Island schools begin spring break this week. Maybe that’s why the teacher-librarians looked so giddy.

Or maybe it was because I was waltzing in the door ­bearing cheques from the Times Colonist Literacy Fund.

This is one of the best parts about the newspaper’s annual book sale: others do the heavy lifting, but people like me get the glory. Over the past few days, I swanned around town like some bald-headed, ­mustard-stained Santa Claus, handing out sale proceeds to grateful recipients. École John Stubbs in Colwood, Cordova Bay Elementary in Saanich, Victor School in Victoria….

Delivering the grants is rewarding, a chance to glimpse good work being done by dedicated people. At Craigflower Elementary, a retired administrator was working one-on-one with a child in the library.

At the Victoria Literacy ­Connection, I peeked into a classroom where immigrant families were working on their language skills. The Mustard Seed Street Church has a ­program that outfits families with the school supplies they can’t afford.

Close to 200 literacy grants totalling $290,000 are being spread around the Times Colonist’s circulation area this month. Most go to schools, where educators get a rare chance to channel money to areas where they know it can do the most good.

”This is, seriously, the one thing we count on,” said Elly Weber, standing in the library at George Jay Elementary. She plans to keep the money on the Island, too, sourcing books from local suppliers. “We really appreciate our local book community.”

This all flows from the annual Times Colonist book drive. Money raised through the book sale is matched, in part, by provincial government funds via Decoda Literacy Solutions. The more you spend, the more they send. The money raised (well over $6 million since the first TC book sale in 1998) goes to literacy on Vancouver Island.

By now, you know how it works. Readers donate good-quality used books, which volunteers sort for resale to the public. Since 2010, both the book collection and book sale have been held at the Victoria Curling Club at 1952 Quadra St.

Mark your calendar: This year’s sale will take place Saturday, May 6, and Sunday, May 7.

First, though, comes the drive-through book drop-off on Saturday, April 22, and Sunday, April 23, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

If you would like to donate books (and we’re really grateful when you do) there are a few things to note.

First, it would really help if you packed them in boxes or bags that you don’t want back. Doing so speeds the unloading process. Also, it would be appreciated if those boxes were light enough for volunteers to lift without groaning/pulling a muscle/breaking wind.

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 dog-eared, moldy, smelly or otherwise in poor condition (this includes your in-laws.)

Sorry if that sounds overly picky, but the truth is that books cannot be recycled in the same way as newsprint or office paper. Last year the literacy society spent several thousand dollars to dispose of books that couldn’t be offered for sale. That’s money that would have otherwise gone to literacy grants.

As usual, there’s always room for more recruits to the small army of volunteers, most of whom have no connection to the newspaper, who cheerfully do all the sorting and not so cheerfully do all the grunt work (books are heavy) at the drive. Particularly welcome would be anyone capable of bull labour on the weekend of the collection. If you have free time and a strong back (or perhaps a child you don’t like) please contact the volunteer co-ordinator at [email protected].

At the sale itself, the hours have been extended on the Saturday to give daytime workers a chance to shop. Doors will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on May 6 but remain 9-5 on Sunday, May 7.

Some buyers can expect to pay a little more. For the first time since 2002 — when Victoria gas cost 74 cents a litre and single-family houses sold for an average of $275,000 — we’re tweaking the prices: children’s books and pocketbooks will rise to $2 from $1. Trade paperbacks will stay unchanged at $2 and hardcovers will remain $3.

The extra money will help with the book drive’s main goal: bringing smiles to the faces of those furthering literacy on Vancouver Island.

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