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Spreading literacy

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
David Booth knows a thing or two about hunting.

The Vancouver Canucks forward was up at the crack of dawn Wednesday morning; the air was brisk, the grass dewy and Booth was in uniform, ready for action.

It didn’t take him long to spot his target: a large chocolate brown male moose.

With the moose in his sights, Booth approached in silence and surprised his prey – with a headlock.

Booth and Ali, the E-Comm 911 mascot, posed for photos before shaking hands and parting ways.

The only thing Booth was actually hunting on this day was funds for the 17th annual Raise-A-Reader Day in support of literacy.

Booth, Zack Kassian, coach Daryl Williams and alumni Kirk McLean, Jack McIlhargey and Dennis Kearns, Fin, and personalities from the BC Lions, Vancouver Whitecaps, Vancouver Giants, Vancouver Canadians as well as local celebrities, along with hundreds of volunteers, all gave their time Wednesday morning exchanging special Raise-A-Reader editions of The Vancouver Sun for donations, with all proceeds allocated to literacy programs throughout British Columbia.

Booth stood tall at the corner of Melville and Burrard outside the Burrard skytrain station and before the clock hit 7 a.m., he had a jersey on his back, papers in hand and a money belt around his waist.

“Help support Raise-A-Reader Day, get your papers heeeeeeeere!” shouted Booth.

One yell was all it took as for the next two hours Vancouverites (Canucks fans or not) supported literacy in BC by donating what they could. In exchange, Booth smiled, posed, signed, shook hands, hugged and took donations – he even wished Ferdaline a happy birthday on an iPhone video filmed by her mother.

Booth was glad to be part of the event because he understands the importance of literacy as much as anyone.

“I honestly wasn’t the biggest reader growing up, then I really picked it up,” said Booth. “Goosebumps books were my favourite; I didn’t have a favourite, I think I read them all!”

Booth can often be seen with a book in hand during Canucks road trips and he’s big on biographies. Even more so, he’s been on exercising his mind as much as possible.

“We take reading for granted sometimes, but there are a lot of people who lack literacy skills. I’m glad I can be out here to help raise money to support spreading literacy.”

According to Life Literacy Canada, 40 per cent of BC’s youth have insufficient reading skills and one in five students do not complete high school in the expected time as a result of their reading struggles.

Thirty-five per cent of British Columbian adults struggle with literacy skills to the point where they are not able to fully participate and be successful in modern society and 14 per cent are defined as illiterate.

Canucks Family Education Centre (CFEC) supports low-income families from Vancouver’s east-side or Burnaby’s Edmonds area, most are either aboriginal families or refugee families and as one of the partner beneficiaries, CFEC will receive a grant to pay for qualified teachers and teaching supplies.

More than $27,000 in funds was raised during this year’s event with 100 per cent of that going to empower today’s children and families with tools to improve their reading skills at CFEC, the Vancouver Public Library Foundation and Decoda Literacy Solutions.

Since its inception in 1997, Raise-a-Reader has raised $7 million in BC alone. The Raise-A-Reader program went national in 2002 and has since donated approximately $20 million in support of family literacy.

“That’s a lot of money…a lot, a lot of money…I’m glad I could play a part in helping raise it,” said Zack Kassian.

“For me it was all about Arthur and Dr. Seuss books when I was growing up. I don’t know if that’s what kids still read or not, but just getting the chance to read is great.”

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