The Children's Book Bank

The mission of The Children’s Book Bank is to provide free books and literacy support to children in high-needs neighbourhoods across Toronto by recycling gently-used children's books and making them available through a storefront “book bank” in the Regent Park area of Toronto.

Our Impact Why We Exist


The Book Bank is like a wonderful children's bookstore, though the books are free to the children and their families. The Book Bank provides literacy support and education to its customers and is a popular destination for local schools, daycares and after school groups to visit for field trips at no cost.  In addition, the Book Bank distributes books to families who live too far to visit by partnering with literacy agencies and schools operating in priority neighbourhoods throughout Toronto.


The Book Bank's vision is to provide free books and literacy support to children in high-needs neighbourhoods across Toronto. It is our hope to increase rates of book ownership and foster a love of reading in Toronto's children.  

Our Story What We Do


The Children's Book Bank was founded by a group of community volunteers in the fall of 2007 and opened Canada's first children's "book bank" in the spring of 2008.

Though Toronto has food banks, clothing banks, even a furniture bank, there has never been a book bank. Until now, there has been no easily identifiable destination for gently-used children's books and many have ended up sitting dormant or sent to landfill sites. At the same time, studies show that low-income families do not purchase books for their children despite the fact that book ownership contributes greatly to childhood literacy and later academic success.

The Book Bank connects the supply of gently-used children's books with children who might not otherwise have a chance to own them. As a result, children from low-income families experience the same joy, pride and benefits of book ownership as children from more affluent families.

Accolades and Accomplishments:

The Book Bank has been featured in a number of news pieces including CTV News, Global News, CBC Radio, Newstalk 1010, Indie 88, The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, Zoomer Magazine, and Homemakers Magazine. In each of these publications, the Book Bank has been lauded for the wonderful work being accomplished in its community.

In the spring of 2009 the Book Bank received a community service award from The Cabbagetown Business Improvement Association and its founder, Kim Beatty, received a Woman of Hope award from The Yonge Street Mission. In 2011 the Macaulay Child Development Centre awarded a Friend of Macaulay Award to the Book Bank. The Book Bank has recently won the 2014 IBBY–Asahi Reading Promotion Award, an award given to organizations whose activities make a lasting contribution to reading promotion programmes for children and young people.

Our Programs How We Do It


The Children's Book Bank operates a range of programs including the following two; a storefront Book Bank in Toronto that provides free books and literacy support to families in the surrounding communities of Regent Park, Moss Park, and St. James Town and an outreach program “Books Beyond Berkeley Street” to reach children across Toronto who live too far to visit the Berkeley Street Book Bank.

  • Program One: The Berkeley Street Program

  • ​Program Two: Books Beyond Berkeley Street

The Berkeley Street Book Bank


The Berkeley Street Book Bank is like a magical children's bookstore in the Regent Park area of Toronto. The Book Bank has a wide array of beautiful, gently-used children’s books appropriate for children from birth up to twelve years and provides a beautiful and welcoming environment for children to experience the joy of books and reading. There is no registration or fee and each visitor is permitted to take and keep one book per person, per visit. Staff librarians and retired teacher and librarian volunteers provide advice on book selection and literacy development.

Program Impact: 

The Book Bank permits families who would not otherwise purchase books, an opportunity to obtain books for their children.  This helps children build their own libraries and foster and develop a love of books and reading. The families of Regent Park have enthusiastically embraced the Book Bank and visit the Book Bank regularly and frequently.  Since opening in the spring of 2008, the Book Bank has distributed over 450,000 books and continues to see an average of 180 visitors a day.

Toronto's Vital Signs Report:

"Almost 1 in 8 children in Toronto in poverty in 2011 still endure present privation and future risk. Many children live in poverty because their parents’ employment doesn’t provide a living wage."

Book ownership in childhood is more strongly linked with childhood literacy and future academic success than parental income or education.  Improved literacy rates of children in low-income families will contribute to the elimination of childhood poverty in the future.

Books Beyond Berkeley Street


The Books Beyond Berkeley Street program allows the Book Bank to provide free books and literacy support to families living too far away to visit the storefront location. The Book Bank partners with community agencies and schools in priority neighbourhoods across the City. The program varies from agency to agency and includes:

•   small satellite book banks such as the Macaulay Book Nook, at the Macaulay Child Development Centre

•   distribution of books to literacy support workers who distribute books to high-needs families

•   distribution of books to schools to be distributed to the students by their teachers or school librarians

Program Impact: 

Through The Books Beyond Berkeley Street Program, The Book Bank has been able to distribute tens of thousands of books to children in high-needs neighbourhoods who live too far away to visit the Berkeley Street Book Bank. This program effectively allows the Book Bank to "expand" outside of Regent Park without the costs of opening additional storefront book banks.  

Toronto's Vital Signs Report:

"The Ontario Government provides additional funding through a Learning Opportunity Grant (LOG) and an English as a Second Language/English Literacy Development (ESL/ELD) allocation to help school boards provide such programs as school breakfasts, homework clubs, remedial reading and mentoring to disadvantaged students. However, a new brief from Social Planning Toronto states that the Board is diverting about two-thirds of the LOG and one-quarter of the ESL grants to general expenses, in an effort to balance its budget." 

The Book Bank provides needed support to high-needs communities affected by the declining school funding and programs for lower income students. 

Program Partners:

The funding for both Berkeley Street Book Bank and Books Beyond Berkeley Street is provided through the Book Bank’s general donor base. The Berkeley Street Book Bank and it’s programs are supported by individual donors, family foundations and corporations including The Chawkers Foundation, Maria Christina Hendrie Trust, The Gooder Foundation, RBC Foundation, The Betty Averbach Foundation and The Chisholm Thompson Family Fund.

The Book Bank has had a number of program delivery partners including:

•   The Macaulay Child Development Centre - serving Toronto West and Humber Community

•   East York East Toronto Family Resources in United Way’s Crescent Town Hub

•   Albion Neighbourhood Services in United Way's Rexdale Hub

•   320 Dixon Library in partnership with Somali Liaison Unit of Metro Toronto Police.


What You Can Do

The Berkeley Street Book Bank


The Children's Book Bank is largely reliant on the generosity of private individuals, foundations and corporations.

It costs approximately $370,000 per year to operate the Book Bank and every donation dollar is utilized to fulfill its mission.  This translates into a cost of $7115 per week. 

Donation Impact:

With financial support, The Children's Book Bank will be able to continue to responsibly recycle children's books and support the literacy of the next generation of Toronto's citizens.

Books Beyond Berkeley Street


Financial support will enable the Book Bank to expand its community partnerships to more high-needs neighbourhoods in Toronto.  

Costs associated with Books Beyond Berkeley Street include staffing costs for book sorting, packing and transportation, packing and labelling costs and costs associated with program set up with different community agencies. 

Donation Impact:

With financial support, the Book Bank will continue to establish and build its outreach partnerships and thereby expand the reach of its services to the residents of the many high-needs communities in the inner suburbs across the City of Toronto.  


Carolyn Madonia
Managing Director
Charitable Number: 844532952RR0001

Finance & Governance


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