Ask most four year olds what they want for their birthday and the answer isn’t likely going to be “donate to charity.” But that’s exactly what Langford’s Maya Hoffman did when she turned five.
Instead of giving out a wish list of toys to party guests, Maya’s mother, Kristen, hosted a toonie party. For readers who don’t have primary-aged kids, the premise is simple: each guest brings two toonies; one toward a present for the birthday child, and one toward charity.
As a book lover since her toddler years, it was no surprise that Maya chose to use her birthday funds to buy 50 books to support the West Shore 1,000 x 5 Children’s Book Recycling Project.
“She picked out all the books herself,” says Hoffman, arms around her daughter.
She seems aware that Maya’s enthusiasm for giving is perhaps a little extraordinary for someone so young.
“Why did you want to donate all those books?” Hoffman asks her daughter.
“So other kids can have books,” Maya says, with a big smile.
As energetic as any kid her age, she is also remarkably well-spoken, happily talking about her favourite kinds of stories and adding that she’s started reading to her two-year-old brother, Madax.
Hoffman heard about the 1,000 x 5 program, a Greater Victoria initiative, when they moved to the Island from Alberta three years ago.
“I thought it was wonderful,” she says. She decided to step up the challenge by reading 1,000 different books to her daughter.
They made the goal before Maya turned four and Hoffman says they still read every night.
Though the family has donated to other causes in the past, this was Maya’s first experience with being so directly involved in charitable giving.
Ask her how it felt to take so many books to the literacy group and her elfin eyes widen as she exclaims, “Happy!”
The West Shore arm of the 1,000 x 5 Children’s Book Recycling Project was established in 2012 and has already had over 18,000 books donated from the community.
The program helps supply books to 250 families each month through various organizations such as the Goldstream Food Bank, Pacific Centre Family Services and Island Health’s Best Babies program.
“The goal of the project is that all children will have the chance to get a thousand books read to them by age five,” says project leader Denise Brown of Victoria.
Children who have been consistently read to are better prepared for school, learn more readily, understand story lines and can enjoy books more, she says. The former kindergarten teacher was on hand to receive the donation at Crystal View elementary from Maya and her family.
“It just brought tears to my eyes,” Brown says. “My husband and I were both there to meet (Maya). Her little brother was there, and her mom’s whole attitude was so wonderful. We just came home with this wonderful feeling.”
For more information or to donate, email Brown at email@example.com or visit sookewestshoreliteracy.ca.