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”The Mountie who always gets his books”

What began as a conversation around the dinner table between RCMP Const. John Kennedy, wife Karen and sons Chris and Ryan in 1995 has grown into the multi-million dollar volunteer “Adopt a library” literacy program. It is one of the most unique and important library reading projects ever conceived.
John, stationed in Dalhousie, New Brunswick, was involved with elementary school kids. He felt they were not utilizing the school library because it was lacking good books to read. He began writing companies to see if they would help the library. Response was overwhelming. Companies offered books. Service clubs offered prizes for reading. In five years “Adopt a library” had snowballed to over $50,000 in cash, books and prizes an enormous amount for a school library in a small community.
Then, John was transferred to his home town of Pictou, Nova Scotia. It appeared the snowball was going to melt.
Soon after arriving at his new post he began receiving phone calls from companies who had supported his volunteer project.
So Dick, I went to the Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library, explained the program to them, and asked if they were open to it. They told me it was the first time anyone had ever walked in off of the street offering help. We set a three-year target of $50,000. It took only three months to achieve our target.
They were on their way and have never looked back.
He asked the library staff to do research connecting illiteracy and crime. They found that 65 per cent of inmates entering Canadian jails for the first time have difficulty reading; 48 per cent of all Canadians fall into the two lowest of the five levels of literacy. John’s belief is that if we teach our kids to read today maybe we can keep them out of jail.
Reading competitions between local schools soon spread out across the province, then across Canada and across the ocean to Ireland and England, where John was invited to speak to organizations developing their own “Adopt a Library” program, using the same format that began around the Kennedy dinner table in Dalhousie in 1995.
Most success stories can be traced by to similar beginnings — someone saying, “There must be a better way.” In this case, the Kennedy family came up with a better idea that is changing the lives of people in a most positive way.
Const. John Kennedy is a Canadian Achiever who deserves the Order of Canada.

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