Lawyer Kim Beatty takes respite from her day job to help children discover the love of reading.
Children’s stories Harriet the Spy, Something from Nothing, Goodnight Moon, Lemony Snicket and The Secret Garden are not the typical literary titles you’d expect a litigation lawyer with a 20-year career to have lining her bookshelves, but Kim Beatty isn’t just anyone.
Last May, the mother of teenage sons Christopher and Chas traded in her law texts to build the Children’s Book Bank — a charitable Toronto-based organization and bookstore replete with literacy support and programming, as well as free second-hand children’s books — where she now holds court, reading to the two- to 12-year-old crowd.
“Today, I read Sody Salleratus by Aubrey Davis to a class of kindergarten students, and that’s always fun. I like books where the kids participate in the exercise of reading,” says Beatty, who ventured into this new chapter in her life three years ago.
Restless from juggling work at a law firm with volunteer book drives for different charities around Toronto, Beatty craved change. She contemplated, then rejected, the idea of applying for a position with a non-profit company, the Furniture Bank. “It wasn’t what I really wanted to do. I was thinking that I would go into something in the non-profit sector, but how and where?” The answer came out of the blue.
“I was working on the computer and somehow the whole concept of a book bank hit me,” says the 50-year-old. “I immediately Googled ‘book bank’ and I found one in New Haven, Conn., and started doing research.” Six months later, along with a huge helping of family support and the start-up brain power from a devoted group of 12 women, Beatty found the change she was seeking. In May 2008, she was ready for business.
“Initially, I was a bit jealous or protective of the concept and the vision, and reluctant to delegate and share the load. We couldn’t have lasted, though, without those 12 people who sat around my table all those weeks. The Book Bank is about a group of women who have rolled up their sleeves. I just happened to take the lead and be the person to get it going,” she says.
For a mom whose boys grew up hearing her say “yes” in the bookstore and “no” in the toy store, it’s only appropriate that Beatty’s days are now filled with collecting, receiving and sorting through all of the previously loved books that have been donated by local families, schools and businesses. She also speaks with parents about literacy support, trains volunteers, creates ongoing business and marketing initiatives, answers e-mails, telephone calls and more.