One District One Book receives $40,000 donation from Ron and Joyce Sakamoto

Lethbridge School District No. 51’s One District One Book (1D1B) initiative has received a significant financial boost.

Local entrepreneurs Ron and Joyce Sakamoto have donated $40,000 towards 1D1B, to help get organizers closer to the eventual goal. The committee now needs only $45,000 to complete its fundraising efforts. Sakamoto’s wife, Joyce, is the real reader in the family, as Ron mentioned the donation was a perfect fit.

“She loves reading and she loves children, so this is right up her alley,” said Sakamoto, who added the book 1D1B organizers have selected, made his decision that much easier. “This book is an awesome book, especially because this book is about bullying, includes unique friendships, tolerance and all the different things about life you experience as you are growing up.”

The title of the book is being kept as a surprise until the March, 2019 launch of 1D1B, but Sakamoto is certain the book will resonate with students and families throughout the city.

“It’s unbelievable to have 13,000 kids from Kindergarten to Grade 12 to have this book. It’s amazing,” said Sakamoto, who marveled at the scope of the initiative. “They’ve done One School One Book before, but One District One Book with 13,000 books – that’s just incredible.”

One School One Book was actually first launched in Canada at Dr. Probe Elementary School, and has since grown and evolved to include many schools throughout the District. Multi-school initiatives have also taken place, but nothing on this scale has been attempted.

“The project involves every student from Kindergarten to Grade 12 and every staff member in Lethbridge School District No. 51 being given a copy of the same book, and reading the book at the same time,” said 1D1B committee member Michelle Dimnik, who was instrumental in getting Dr. Probe’s One School One Book initiative off the ground. “Our unique project will bring students, staff, families and community members together in a shared literary journey. This project will involve approximately 40,000 members of the community of Lethbridge.”

Not only will everyone read the same book at the same time, but the community will experience the gift of literacy through individual school activities, cross-school and cross-grade activities, and District-wide activities. 

“The overwhelming success of previous One School One Book and Three Schools One Book projects undertaken in various schools in Lethbridge forms the foundation for this exciting new project,” said Dimnik. “We hope to create a magic and excitement in the City of Lethbridge by bringing the community together around a shared story and a shared experience.”

The One School One Book concept originated in the United States through an organization called Read to Them. The first project took place in 2003 at William F. Fox Elementary School in Richmond, Virginia. Since then, the initiative has spread throughout the United States and Canada.

Read to Them founder, Gary Anderson, said several districts in the United States have read one book together before, but there has never been a single district in North America that has pulled off a K-12 initiative.

“We are thrilled with what Michelle and her committee are doing and what is happening in Lethbridge,” said Anderson. “This has been the first time it has even been attempted. I just think it is hugely exciting. What you’re doing is something special in Canada, something that we haven’t done yet in the States.”

Anderson added he is excited to see how the 1D1B initiative is received in Lethbridge.

“We’re just waiting to hear how this goes and we’re hoping this just blows it out of the water.”

Bruce Coffey Jr., Read to Them Director of Programs, added the 1D1B concept is a game changer.

“Reading K-8 or K-12 is such an ambitious thing to do - but so completely and totally fulfills the ideal and mission of One School One Book and our family literacy model,” said Coffey Jr. “Lethbridge will be, and in truth, has already been, an exemplar for all of North America of how to make reading together a tradition.”

Coffey Jr. added Lethbridge School District No. 51 has also set the standard for how One School One Book can make reading together infectious. 

“When children and students see everyone reading together, especially something as stimulating and accessible and valuable as the book selected for One District One Book, they can really come to realize that reading together is more than a solitary pursuit, but a shared cultural delight. Families can truly develop the habit of reading regularly together.”

According to Coffey Jr., all of this fulfills Read to Them’s mission - to create a culture of literacy in every home. 

“I can’t think of a city or district that is fulfilling that mission better than Lethbridge, Alberta,” he said.

In order to make the Lethbridge project a reality, the District will purchase approximately 13,000 copies of the book chosen for the project. To date, the 1D1B committee has received incredible financial support from the publisher, Raincoast/Chronicle, and the University of Lethbridge Bookstore. The bookstore firmly endorse the project and is doing a special paperback run of the book, which will save the 1D1B committee 70 per cent off the initial cost.

The book chosen for the project will remain a secret until closer to the beginning of the project.

“We can tell you that this book is just what our students, families and community need to read,” said Dimnik. “It deals with themes of friendship, tolerance and acceptance in a unique fashion and is relevant to our time. It is about family and community, and it is perfect for a project aimed at strengthening literacy, family and community bonds.”

The “grassroots” project has been initiated by a number of present and former educators in Lethbridge School District No. 51, who formed a One District One Book committee. The initiative has received the full support of the Board of Trustees, Superintendent and administrators within the District. 

“The Board of Trustees is so proud of the efforts of the One District One Book committee. This committee is doing something that is truly special, and something that will remembered by our students for years to come,” said Board Chair Clark Bosch. “This project would not be possible without the generous support of many in our community, including Ron and Joyce Sakamoto.”

The project is self-funded and relies entirely on the generousity of the community in sponsoring the project, especially as it relates to raising funds to purchase the 13,000 books needed to make the project work. To date, the One District One Book committee has received contributions from a number of generous community-minded individuals and businesses, including the contribution from Ron and Joyce Sakamoto, who donated enough funds to provide an initial payment on the order of the books from the publisher.

“While we are off to a very good start, we have a long way to go and we are looking for others to join in this community project,” said Dimnik.

Donations can be given by making tax deductible financial contributions to the project through School Cash Online by visiting this link: SCHOOLCASH, or by dropping off a cheque at the Lethbridge School District No. 51 Education Centre at 433-15 Street South, Lethbridge, T1J 2Z4. A tax receipt will be issued for amounts of $20 or more.

“We welcome all people and groups, including business, community organizations and perhaps even book clubs, to join in this project by making financial contributions, and stay tuned to further announcements in the hope they too will participate in this huge community event,” said Dimnik, who is joined on the 1D1B committee by Catherine Thorsen, Ruth McMahon, Morgan Day, Lindsey Baird and Susan Keller.

Thorsen added the donation from the Sakamoto family will go a long way towards helping the committee fulfill its fundraising goal.

“The Sakamoto’s commitment to our project shows how much they care about Lethbridge, literacy and our future generation,” said Thorsen. “Our committee is elated and buzzing with excitement, as our end goal in now within reach. A donation like this means so much. We hope that others will follow the Sakamoto’s lead and consider donating to this worthy cause.”

For Sakamoto, who also has a deep connection to the education system, One District One Book was a natural fit.

“My son is a school teacher and my daughter is a school teacher as well,” said Sakamoto, who added he also has grandchildren in the Lethbridge School District No. 51 system. “Because it’s for kids, this was an unbelievable opportunity for us.”

Sakamoto, who was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame in 2014, owns and operates Gold & Gold Productions Ltd., and is the owner and general manager of Paradise Canyon Golf Resort. He has been honoured with the Canadian Country Music Association’s Hank Smith Award of Excellence and received the CCMA Talent Buyer or Promoter of the Year 17 years in a row. That prompted the CCMA to rename the award in his honour.

For more information on One District One Book, visit the 1D1B website, or the Facebook page and Twitter account.

Date posted: Sept. 27, 2018

Picture number 1 from the photo album called One District One Book receives $40,000 donation from Ron and Joyce Sakamoto
Picture number 2 from the photo album called One District One Book receives $40,000 donation from Ron and Joyce Sakamoto
Picture number 3 from the photo album called One District One Book receives $40,000 donation from Ron and Joyce Sakamoto
Picture number 4 from the photo album called One District One Book receives $40,000 donation from Ron and Joyce Sakamoto
Picture number 5 from the photo album called One District One Book receives $40,000 donation from Ron and Joyce Sakamoto
Picture number 6 from the photo album called One District One Book receives $40,000 donation from Ron and Joyce Sakamoto