A Kelowna bookstore and a UBCO student are hosting a book drive to make sure prison inmates get to experience the power of literature.
Medical student Emily Wiesenthal said since the pandemic began, she has seen how inmates have been caught between various inequities, including in health and education.
“There’s so little empathy and compassion in public discourse for folks who are in prison,” she said.
“Equity work is best and most meaningful when it’s collaborative and rooted in community.”
So once she got in touch with non-profit Books To Prisoners in Vancouver, she also reached out to Mosaic Books to see if they would be interested in hosting a book drive.
The bookstore’s general manager Alicia Neill said it just made sense to say yes.
“I believe that education and literature should be accessible to everybody and this (book drive) was a great way to get our community involved,” she said.
“Over the last year, we’ve been interacting with our customers so much over social media and less face to face, and this is a great way for them to get involved in something in their community that wasn’t something COVID-related.”
Neill said the community has been nothing but positive, buying books to donate to the drive as well as dropping off gently-used books at the store to be shipped off.
“I was a bit nervous at first because there’s a lot of stigma around folk who have encounters with the prison system,” Wiesenthal said.
“I was worried there would be some hesitancy but it’s been really overwhelmingly positive. Folks are keen to support literacy, accessibility and sharing the joy of reading.”
Wiesenthal and Neill said they’ve received a good number of books, and they’re encouraging more residents to join in by dropping off a secondhand book or buying a new book for an inmate. They said they are accepting a wide variety of genres but would like more on arts and crafts to give inmates activities as well.
If you have gently-used softcover books you would like to donate, you can drop them off at Mosaic Books in downtown Kelowna or at UBCO’s student union GreenText and More until April 22.
For a list of approved genres and categories, visit the Books To Prisoners website.