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Yun Cheng reads to her children, Emily Cheng-Martin, 8, and Simon Cheng-Martin, 10, at the 10th anniversary celebration of the Children's Book Bank in Toronto on Saturday, May 5, 2018.Galit Rodan/The Globe and Mail

Every month, Ms. Yun Cheng’s Grade 5 students from Secord Elementary School in Toronto add a new book to their personal collection, free of charge.

For the past two years, Ms. Cheng has been taking her students on monthly school trips to the Children’s Book Bank (CBB), located in the Regent Park community, which she says helps foster a love of reading. The not-for-profit, which recently celebrated a decade of operation, is one of the only book banks of its kind in the country.

“It’s the best program,” says Ms. Cheng. “It’s, like, the happiest place for me, and when I take the kids they love it.”

The founders transformed an old home into a reading haven for young children, one with a reading room on the main level and an office space in the basement, where executive director Mary Ladky handles the CBB’s long-term planning.

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Emily Cheng-Martin, 8, left, stoops down to look at a book.Galit Rodan

“The broad mission is about bringing books and children together, children who otherwise might not have the chance to own and choose their favourites,” says Ms. Ladky. Membership or identification is not required for children to use their services.

On any given Saturday, the book bank can give away upwards of 250 books. They also ship out roughly 6,000 more books each month to hospitals, community centres and schools.

The CBB is operated by volunteers and full-time staff, who also oversee the facility‘s child-literacy programs. Ms. Ladky says she wants to expand the group’s reach by offering reading materials in various languages and extending the service to communities outside of Toronto, particularly those that welcome immigrants.

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Children browse for books.Galit Rodan

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