The local book club will be a lockdown lifeline for teenage girls in Ontario

TORONTO — When their library collection point — and book source — closed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, a local teenage girls’ reading club could have closed its own chapter.

But founder Tanya Lee decided to send materials out to the 15 young members – and quickly realized how important it was to keep it alive.

“They told me how I mailed these books really helped with their depression during the pandemic because they were not allowed to go out,” Lee told CTV News Toronto. “They lived in high-priority neighborhoods where COVID-19 rates were really high.”

When schools were closed and social connections severed, the group decided to move “A Room of Your Own” club meetings online. Before long, it became an escape from the stress of COVID-19 and the accompanying isolation.

“Everyone felt so lonely, we didn’t really have much to do,” said Ali Chamberlain, 14. “The books and being able to talk about them – I would be so excited about the book club.”

Soon, hundreds of other young women from across the country began attending, and Lee canceled the call for corporate sponsors to deliver books to the growing group. Chapman’s Ice Cream donated 600 novels, and Lee hopes more companies will answer the call.

Each book presented by the club has a strong female protagonist who gives members identifiable grades from all walks of life.

“The books we read are stories of empowerment of women that we can really relate to,” Chamberlain said.

“I like them much better than the ones we read in school,” said Soleil Bignall, 15. “I also like that they are mainly female writers.”

Members have had a chance to meet many of the authors, including Michelle Obama, whom they met on the former First Lady’s book tour in 2019.

book club

Since the pandemic hit, writers have been virtually attending their meetings twice a month, giving teens a chance to interact with them online and develop other social connections at the same time.

“It’s a great experience to meet authors, read a lot of books, talk about them with people who also read the book and are excited about it,” said Amelia Zdaniuk, 13.

But it’s clear, Lee said, that for many, the club became a lifeline during the lockdown – providing social support and creating connections that will last beyond the pandemic.

“I knew it would help, but I did not know to what extent they needed it,” she said.

“We read books that we really did not know we needed,” Chamberlain said.

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