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Robert Irving Honoured as Literacy Champion at the Third Annual Peter Gzowski Invitational Dinner

The Literacy Coalition of New Brunswick honoured Mr. Robert Irving with its Champion of Literacy Award at its third annual Peter Gzowski Invitational (PGI) Literacy Dinner on April 11 in Fredericton. 

Mr. Irving has been personally involved in literacy initiatives in the province for many years. The Reading is Wild Program, first launched in 1998 through the Moncton Wildcats, was created to use the popularity of the hockey team as a motivational tool to help encourage reading and literacy. The Wildcats’ players visit schools to read to the kids and to talk about reading not only for school, but also for fun! Over the course of 17 years, 45 schools and close to 20,000 students have participated and the program recently celebrated the important milestone of 1 million books read by students. 

Support for literacy initiatives in schools extends to programs such as Partners Assisting Local Schools (PALS). Initiated in 2000 by Robert’s father, Mr. James K. Irving, PALS started out as a partnership between one school in Saint John and J.D. Irving, Limited. Since 2009 J.D. Irving’s Moncton-based employees have participated in PALS, partnering with Lou MacNarin School in Dieppe. Each year about 30 volunteers, including Robert Irving, spend time with the students in various learning and literacy programs. The PALS program has grown to include more than 100 business partners in schools throughout the province. 

Literacy Coalition of New Brunswick (LCNB) President Frank Hayes says those contributions of time, resources and leadership around issues relating to literacy today are an investment in our future – one with promising returns. 

“Providing opportunities to visit schools and spend time with our youngest learners to create early positive attitudes toward reading is one way to help encourage curiosity and critical thinking – skills we know will benefit them throughout their lives,” said Hayes. “In a province where literacy rates remain among the lowest in the country, we need to continue to provide opportunities to support our children and families, to measure our progress and to celebrate those who are taking constructive steps to raise the bar for literacy rates.” 

The PGI event is designed to raise funds for youth, adult and family literacy programs in communities around the province, including support for schools, libraries and community groups, in an effort to raise province-wide literacy. 

“Education and literacy provide the foundation that give our youth the confidence, self-esteem and lifelong skills needed to become successful adults. Our youth are our future,” said Mr. Irving. “I feel strongly that as adults, it is our purpose and responsibility to give the children we influence an opportunity to excel – an environment in which they can thrive and the self-confidence to follow their dreams.”