Kamloops literacy fundraiser sets record

Raise-a-Reader campaign brings in donations for special edition of Daily News

Kamloops was once again covered in orange in support of literacy initiatives on Wednesday during the annual Raise-a-Reader campaign.

This was the fifth year The Daily News has participated in Postmedia's campaign, which sees volunteers clad in orange hawking 5,000 special editions of the newspaper all over town in exchange for donations.

People gave everything from spare change to a $100 bill.

Last year, locals handed over more than $7,500 during newspaper hawking alone in Kamloops. Combine that with sponsorships, government matching and rural funds, and nearly $80,000 was raised for the cause in 2012, said event co-ordinator Rick Major, The Daily News circulation manager.

"It looks like we're on track to do exceptionally well," said Major of this year's efforts. "I think we are going to do better than last year."

By Wednesday afternoon, Kamloops had set a new record with more than $8,100 raised from the streets. Corporate, government and rural donations have yet to be tallied.

The region has routinely been one of the top-collecting Raise-a-Reader communities in B.C., going head-to-head with Greater Victoria, which has four times the population.

"It's fantastic support," said City of Kamloops Coun. Tina Lange while handing out papers with Coun. Pat Wallace outside the downtown Kamloops Library.

"I think this has been going on long enough that people know about it, so people are coming to us."

Lange was among the 150 locals who were rallying to boost local programs for kids and adults alike during the event. A large part of her day was spent talking to passersby about the many literacy supports available in Kamloops.

She said she's seen the need firsthand, having read over many resumes from young job seekers that were riddled with misspelled words and grammar so poor it rendered the content incomprehensible.

"Kids today, I think, are surrounded by video games, etc., and maybe not reading at the same rate," she said. "It doesn't matter that we're in a world of computers, if you can't read, you get left behind in this world."

Maureen Doll needs no convincing, as the co-ordinator of Kamloops Early Language and Literacy Initiative.

She said fluency in reading and writing at an early age translates into confidence as children grow up. Social settings are more enjoyable for highly literate kids thanks to the ease with communication that it creates.

It also saves kids from the social stigma associated with low literacy levels.

"That's why Raise-a-Reader is so huge. Because the more money we raise, the more programs we can put on," said Doll.

Even though she herself is a literacy advocate, Doll says she's glad to know that should one of her children struggle with reading, these very programs can help.

"That's really key, just to have that there."

Meanwhile, Education Minister Peter Fassbender announced on Wednesday that the province is providing $500,000 to support literacy and this year's Vancouver Sun Raise-a-Reader campaign.

Decoda Literacy Solutions - B.C.'s provincial literacy organization - will be working with the Vancouver Sun to distribute the funds to community-based literacy organizations throughout the province.

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