10/29/2015 03:23 EDT | Updated 10/29/2016 05:12 EDT

Let's Keep The Art Of Reading Alive

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Mother and daughter reading

I can actually remember when the black scratchings on the pages of my favourite books turned into print, into words I could understand, and then into stories I could read by myself.

It was quite a breakthrough. In fact, it was pretty awesome. It started a lifelong journey of my love for reading.

I can also remember with great fondness all the hours my parents spent with me, reading stories aloud and sharing them. Often we'd both make things up to embellish the stories a little bit, which I realize now was my parents' way of encouraging me to use my imagination and flex my own storytelling skills -- something that has proven valuable as a grown-up who has to address groups of people or develop creative campaigns for clients. Speaking to people and getting my point across is second nature, learned through my love of books.

Imagine there being a child who does not have a stack of books in his room, who has not yet had a chance to pick out the stories he wants to share before bed, who doesn't have a favourite book character to pretend to be when playing in the park. Simply because he does not have access to books.

That thought is what motivated author Neil Pasricha to not only write a children's book that triggers imagination but to give it to every child he encounters in The Awesome Tour of schools in high-needs areas.

You may know Neil from the bestselling Book of Awesome series, all about noticing truly great moments in life, like wearing underwear just out of the dryer, when the vending machine gives you two things instead of one, popping bubble wrap, and my very favorite, bakery air.

Neil says that when he was approached by Penguin, Kobo, and First Book they said "Hey, would you like to donate copies of Awesome is Everywhere for absolutely free to the neediest children in the city?" It was the easiest "yes" he'd ever had.

He has partnered with the charity First Book Canada and the digital reading company Kobo, and will be bringing not only his own book but literally thousands of other great books to those schools.

Nothing is as much a predictor of future success as literacy. We all share in the responsibility of doing everything we can to foster a love of reading among children.

It's not just a parent's responsibility, it is society's.

Luckily, it's not hard to spread the love. According to First Book Canada, one of the easiest ways to encourage kids to read is to let them choose their own book and keep it.

That's what First Book does -- the charitable organization ensures children in high-needs areas have ongoing access to books, including books they can bring home, and ensures their teachers have resources available, either free or heavily discounted, so that they can bring lessons to life and inspire kids to learn.

As a parent of two children who I am always encouraging to read, I love that Neil has partnered with First Book Canada and the digital reading company Kobo, to bring not only his own book but literally thousands of other great books to those schools.

How can we non-authors make a difference for all of these children who don't have access to books?

Consider buying an eBook! Every first purchase of an e-book with Kobo will ensure a child receives his or her first book. Kobo is donating $5 to First Book for every first eBook purchased until November 30 -- more details here:

Or consider volunteering with an organization like First Book. Be a literacy ambassador or help with fundraising with First Book to create something new, there's a world of possibilities limited only by imagination and energy.

Let's not just fight illiteracy, let's end it. It all starts with that first book.

Correction: A previous version of this blog misspelled Neil Pasricha's name as Neil Parishka.


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