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Club opens the book on literacy

Discussion and debate from a local book club is doing more than analyzing plot and character development - it's joining the push for global literacy.

Discussion and debate from a local book club is doing more than analyzing plot and character development - it's joining the push for global literacy.The 13 women who make up the Squamish Literary Society collected a total contribution of $245 this fall for Room to Read, an organization that helps to build schools, libraries and literacy programs in third world countries. Each decided to use the average equivalent value of one book - about $20 - as a benchmark for donations.Longtime member of the 15-year-old society, Nancy Sotham, proposed the idea last spring after reading an article about the non-profit organization, which was founded by a former Microsoft executive who quit his job after visiting a school in Nepal that was virtually bookless.Sotham, a Grade 1 teacher at Squamish Elementary School, successfully pitched the idea to the group with ease, and initiated the fundraiser after the club's summer break."We're all so passionate about reading. We just want to share it with everyone," said Sotham, adding that she sees the power of reading firsthand with her early years students. "As a primary teacher it is very exciting when young children learn how to read. That's when it all starts and it is so exciting as a teacher to see it and all the different worlds it opens up for kids."The money was put toward three specific initiatives within Room to Read, including scholarships for girls, local language publishing and the building of schools. Sotham chose to put money toward helping countries' local authors publish children's books."So often countries from the west will donate books to countries in Africa or the Middle East or wherever but many times they are books with a North American perspective or bent," she said.Past Rotary Club of Squamish president and 11-year book club member Liz Scott hopes the donation encourages other Squamish organizations to turn their attentions to global literacy issues and Room to Read."Everyone in our book club believes in the value of literacy and to us it's important both locally as well as internationally," she said. "It's important the knowledge that is gained - especially in third world countries - and being able to grow from that and improve."Room to Read started by working with rural communities in Nepal to build schools and libraries in 2000. Since then, its geographical reach has extended to Vietnam, Cambodia, India, Sri Lanka, Laos and Zambia, This year, it began operations in Bangladesh.For more information visit

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