The University of Winnipeg



Collegiate students organize book drive for Manitoba Youth Centre

Two students sit on the stairs in front of wooden balusters

Collegiate students (left to right) River Shaw and Eliska Moravkova are organizing a book drive for the Manitoba Youth Centre.

When UWinnipeg Collegiate students River Shaw and Eliska Moravkova heard that prisons in Manitoba don’t receive funding for libraries, they decided to do something about it.

“I love books, and I read books all the time,” said Moravkova. “I couldn’t stand the thought that they don’t have access to books at all.”

These are minors. When you’re that young you need access to books.

River Shaw

What started as a small assignment for the pair’s Global Issues class, soon turned into a much larger project, culminating in a book drive and fundraising event on the UWinnipeg campus.

The goal is to get books into the hands of youth at the Manitoba Youth Centre.

“These are minors. When you’re that young you need access to books,” Shaw said. “You need to be able to learn things that you want to learn, and we just thought it was really unfair that wasn’t an opportunity they are provided with.”

In collaboration with the Manitoba Library Association’s Prison Library Committee, the book drive and bake sale are happening on the third floor of Centennial Hall at the University of Winnipeg on Monday, April 1 and Tuesday, April 2 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. each day.

For every book that someone donates, they will receive a baked good. Baked items will also be for sale as an option for those who aren’t able to donate books. Funds raised will go directly to the Prison Library Committee to support programs at the Manitoba Youth Centre.

Everyone is welcome to donate, however, Shaw and Moravkova said they can’t accept just any books. Books must meet specific criteria to be deemed acceptable, so nothing can be too violent or sexually explicit. Books must be five years old or newer, and only paperback books are permitted.

The young people receiving the books also have a wish list, which includes genres like fantasy, astrology, Indigenous issues, and poetry.

“Right at the top it’s comics and graphic novels,” Shaw said. “It’s one of their most commonly requested genres. They’re just like us. Those are the books we’re reading.”

Aside from their school credit, Shaw and Moravkova said they are learning a lot from coordinating this event.

“We get so much from doing this project,” Moravkova said. “It’s not just the people we’re helping. It’s not just about them getting books. It’s also about us learning how to do things, how to communicate with people, leadership, and how to ask people for help.”

Both students say they hope the books they collect will help make a small difference to the young people at the Manitoba Youth Centre.

“There is racism in these prisons, there is misogyny in these prisons,” said Shaw. “These are big issues. We’re young and we don’t have the resources to fix racism in the prison system, but maybe we can take this little piece and make it a little bit better for people who are already in the system.”

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