First Book Canada

90 Burnhamthorpe Rd W, Suite 1502
Mississauga, ON L5B 3C3
Executive Director: Heather Farquharson
Board Chair: Heather Jessiman

Charitable Reg. #:88875 4603 RR0001


Ci's Star Rating is calculated based on the following independent metrics:

[Charity Rating: 5/5]



Audited financial statements for current and previous years available on the charity’s website.



Grade based on the charity's public reporting of the work it does and the results it achieves.



The demonstrated impact per dollar Ci calculates from available program information.


Charity's cash and investments (funding reserves) relative to how much it spends on programs in most recent year.



For a dollar donated, after overhead costs of fundraising and admin/management (excluding surplus) 95 cents are available for programs.

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About First Book Canada:

First Book Canada is a top-rated 5-star charity with high demonstrated impact. It is financially transparent, has overhead spending within Ci's reasonable range, except for an issue of not reporting any fundraising costs. First Book Canada has excellent reporting of its results for donors. 


Founded in 2009, First Book Canada works to create equal access to quality education for children. First Book Canada reports that since 2009, it has distributed more than seven million books and educational resources to programs and schools serving children from low-income families in Canada. First Book believes that education is a child’s best path out of poverty, but access to quality education is not equal. The charity states that almost 25% of Canadian households do not own a single book, and 30% of Canadian Grade 3 students lack basic literacy skills. Additionally, schools in disadvantaged communities can only afford one new library book for every three children, and one-third of Canadian public school students live in low-income households.

A Charity Intelligence 2023 Top 100 Rated Charity

First Book Canada distributes books through four channels: book banks, pop-up book distributions, the First Book Canada Marketplace, and reading celebrations. The National Book Bank is a centralized system that offers large quantities of publisher-donated books for only the cost of shipping. Pop-up book distributions are in-community events that allow local educators and program leaders to choose from thousands of books for children. The Marketplace is a member-only online store offering children’s books and educational materials at 50-90% off retail prices. Reading celebrations are events across Canada where students attend inspiring presentations by authors or illustrators.


In F2021, First Book Canada distributed 1.6 million books and reached 500,000 children and youth across Canada. The charity also held nine pop-up events and 40 reading celebrations. The First Book Canada network is made up of educators, program leaders, health service providers, and professionals who serve children in need. First Book Canada recently reported that there are 14,843 network members across Canada.

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Results and Impact

First Book Canada reports that in a poll of the First Book Canada network, 83% of respondents reported seeing an increased interest in reading after receiving books from First Book Canada, 54% reported that children receiving books had increased self-esteem, and 88% reported that resources from First Book help close the achievement gap for the kids they serve. It is unclear when this survey was conducted. 


While Charity Intelligence highlights these key results, they may not be a complete representation of First Book Canada’s results and impact.


Charity Intelligence has given First Book Canada a High impact rating based on demonstrated impact per dollar spent.


A Charity Intelligence 2022 Top 10 Canadian Impact Charity

Impact Rating: High

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In F2021, First Book Canada had total cash donations of $707k. The charity also received $5.8m in donated books, representing 82% of total revenue. Administrative costs are 5% of revenue (less investment income). But, we are concerned the charity reports no fundraising costs. This results in total overhead spending of 5%. For every dollar donated, 95 cents go to the cause, which is just outside Ci’s reasonable range for overhead spending. This is because overhead costs at this level are rare and may be misreported.


First Book Canada has $484k in funding reserves, which could cover 38% or under five months of annual program costs. This indicates a need for funding.


Charity Intelligence sent an update of this report to First Book Canada for review. Changes and edits may be forthcoming.


Updated on August 23, 2022, by Sydney Olexa. 

Financial Review

Financial Ratios

Fiscal year ending December
Administrative costs as % of revenues 4.6%4.5%7.0%
Total overhead spending 4.6%4.5%7.0%
Program cost coverage (%) 38.0%22.4%26.6%

Summary Financial Statements

All figures in $000s
Donations 1,026854791
Goods in kind 5,7695,2334,647
Fees for service 556371365
Investment income 20(1)
Other income 94563
Total revenues 7,3626,5035,866
Program costs 1,2741,1921,054
Donated goods exp 5,7695,2334,647
Administrative costs 338293409
Other costs 000
Total spending 7,3826,7186,111
Cash flow from operations (19)(215)(245)
Capital spending 050
Funding reserves 484267280

Note: Ci reported gain (loss) on foreign exchange in investment income, affecting revenues and expenses by $2k in F2021, $nil in F2020, and ($1k) in F2019. 

Salary Information

Full-time staff: 0

Avg. compensation: $0

Top 10 staff salary range:

$350k +
$300k - $350k
$250k - $300k
$200k - $250k
$160k - $200k
$120k - $160k
$80k - $120k
$40k - $80k
< $40k

Information from most recent CRA Charities Directorate filings for F2023

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Comments & Contact

Comments added by the Charity:

First Book Canada added the following comment to a previous profile:

A child’s “first book” is not necessarily their first reading experience: it is the first book that they love, that they can call their own, and that sets them on a lifelong path of learning. Working with our extensive network of educators and program leaders, First Book Canada provides new, high-quality books that make their way into the hands and homes of children who would otherwise not have books of their own. 

Kids with better literacy skills go on to have better life outcomes. According to StatsCan data, the median household income for Canadians with literacy level 1 or below was $49,700, while the median household income for Canadians at level 4 or 5 literacy (the highest levels) was $84,600. (StatsCan 2016. The association between skills and low income.

Other studies link childhood literacy gaps to later criminal involvement, substance use, mental health challenges, and obesity. (ECCT 2009. The long term costs of literacy difficulties: 2nd edition. Every Child a Chance Trust.)

Books and stories enhance social and emotional skills, provide perspectives on the world, increase vocabulary and language and build a cognitive toolkit. They are essential windows to the world and empowering mirrors of experience. Together with our partners, we aim to make an impact in the lives of children in need throughout Canada.


Comments for the 2022 profile update may be forthcoming.

Charity Contact

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Tel: 866-732-3669


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Charitable Registration Number: 80340 7956 RR0001