Rhonda and Rex hit the road to spread the word

July 20, 2021

Rhonda and Rex started their road trip early on a crisp May morning, their car loaded with gifts for school libraries.

By the end of the day they had covered 170 kilometres and delivered books to 12 primary schools, ranging from the small, rural View Hill School in the Canterbury foothills to Pegasus Bay School on the coast.

Rhonda James and her brother Rex McGiffert, who has Down syndrome, were distributing four children’s books about intellectual disability to each school on behalf of the IHC North Canterbury Association’s Books in Schools project.

The plan is to help children understand more about intellectual disability and to promote the services on offer from the IHC Library and Family-Whānau Liaison service.

“It was mind-blowing for people that we were funding things for other people,” Rhonda says. “One woman, who asked how long they could have them, was hugging the books to her chest. She said, ‘Oh, I have got books and I don’t need to pay for them’.”

The association, which two years ago delivered books to 45 pre-schools in North Canterbury, will have covered 18 of 38 primary schools by the time it finishes with this present shipment – all recommended by the IHC Library and funded by the local association.

The four books are: ‘All My Stripes’ by Shaina Rudolph and Danielle Royer, ‘Don’t Call Me Special’ by Pat Thomas, ‘Tomas Loves…’ by Jude Welton and Jane Telford, and ‘Why Are You Looking At Me?’ by Lisa Tompkins.

Rhonda, who works for insurance company IAG, used her ‘Volunteer Day’ to deliver the books. She says she ended the trip “buzzing”. “I came away feeling very proud of our committee and what we have done, and what we are doing to reach our communities.

“I feel like a preacher spreading the word on behalf of the library and the Family-Whānau Liaison.”

 IHC North Canterbury Association Chair Kay Pearce says the Books in Schools project is an initiative to connect to young families. “It’s a real feel-good project,” she says. “You are starting at that early age – and we get such good feedback.”

The initiative has been so successful that other IHC associations are getting on board.

Caption: Rhonda James and her brother Rex McGiffert launched a road trip to deliver free books to primary schools throughout North Canterbury.