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Ottawa students celebrate reading with local author Sandra Bradley

While libraries give everyone access to books, there's something luxurious about taking home a glossy, dog-ear-free, brand-new book.

Around 60 grade 1 and 2 students at Severn Avenue Public School got a chance to enjoy that feeling on Tuesday, when each received a signed copy of Henry Holton Takes the Ice, a book by a local author about a boy trying to find his place in a hockey-crazed family.

Having a physical book “gives them something that they can treasure, and it actually belongs to them," said Carrie Ginn, the teacher at the school who organized the giveaway. "A lot of kids now just go home and play video games, but this is something they can share with their parents."

Ottawa author Sandra Bradley read the book aloud to a riveted crowd in the school gym, and answered questions about the writing process. When asked to guess how long it took Bradley to write the book, most assumed anything from two hours to two weeks.

They were shocked to learn it took four years to write.

The event was a partnership between Kumon, an after-school math and reading program that supplied funding, and First Book Canada, a group that works to distribute brand-new books to families with lower incomes.

The program helps children build enthusiasm for reading, which is essential to success in school, said Dawa Samdup, a branch manager with Kumon who participated in the event.

“Anything you learn at a young age is learned more thoroughly than things you pick up later in life," he said. "A lot of kids don’t have access to new books, and that's something we felt strongly about as a company, so we were happy to get involved."

For a few of the students at the event, Henry Holton will be the first new book they own themselves. That's quite an honour for Bradley.

"I'd heard about First Book before and thought, 'What a great idea,'" she said. "And I loved this school. I was so impressed with all the intelligent questions."

Similar events are organized across the country by First Book Canada and Kumon. So far, the organization has distributed over 10 million books.

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