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Riding for reading

A small bike company in Portland, Oregon, is helping the Yukon Literacy Coalition deliver books to the communities.

A small bike company in Portland, Oregon, is helping the Yukon Literacy Coalition deliver books to the communities.

Staff of the coalition are spending part of their summer cycling around the territory on a hand-built bike by Icicle Tricycles. The company originally began building the bikes for merchants that filled the boxes with popsicles, or ice cream, or coffee. The version of the bike that calls Whitehorse home carries a different product: books.

Emma Hanes is one of the employees who can be found behind the book bike.

“We wanted to have the opportunity to take our programming into the communities, and we try to take it as far as we can,” she said, sitting on the bike in the mid-day sun in downtown Whitehorse.

“On a typical day people come up to us and wonder what we are doing.”

The bike functions not only as distribution point for books but a chance for staff members like Hanes to speak with locals and give them more information about the coalition and the summer and year-round programs available. The staff will often change the book selection based on the events they are attending but typically you can find a range of everything from young fiction to history texts.

At the Canada Games Centre, there’s the family literacy centre. Downtown, on the banks of the Yukon River, programs are run out of the Pioneer Hotel in Shipyards Park. There’s also a reading wall tent that the coalition takes into the communities.

All of the programming is free and open to anyone who wants to participate.

On Wednesdays, the book bike is ridden to Arts in the Park, where books that have been donated by the community are redistributed.

The book bike is now in its third summer and Hanes said its success is due to a “huge community effort.”

“It’s become quite recognizable for what it’s become,” she said.

The bike can carry in the range of 200 books, which makes pedaling a bit cumbersome but nothing the dedicated staff can’t handle.

“It’s a nice workout and it’s just nice to see so many people and kids get so excited about it. They’re surprised to know there are free books.”

The book bike travelled from Portland to Skagway on the Alaska State Ferry and then by pick-up truck to Whitehorse.

Since it’s arrival, it’s appeared in the Canada Day Parade as well as the Pride Parade.

If you’re interested in donating to the programs, there are receptacles placed around town for book drop-offs and you can always hand off a book to whoever is behind the bike.

“Our programming all works together to promote literacy throughout the Yukon,” said Hanes.

“It’s nice to able to come right up to people as opposed to the community having to seek us out.”

Contact Sam Riches at