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
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
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