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95-year-old B.C. woman delivers free books to preschoolers to foster literacy

Qualicum Beach, B.C. -

Once upon a time, there was a woman named Eva.

“And she sees something she’s never seen before,” Eva Hilborn says, reading from an illustrated children’s book.

In real life, what Eva saw that she’d never seen before was a singer named Dolly donating books to young children.

It made Eva exclaim, “I can do that!”

So the 95-year-old made contact with rural families who didn’t have easy access to libraries during the pandemic and bought about two dozen books.

“It started small,” Eva says.

You see, Eva’s income is fixed and the preschoolers she hoped to deliver books to were spread out.

“It was a struggle,” Eva admits.

But like The Little Engine That Could, Eva never stopped saying, “I think I can.”

And Eva did it.

Her friend and former fellow teacher Cathy VanHerwaarden wasn’t surprised.

“She’s a 95-year-old dynamo!” Cathy smiles.

And the three-year-olds who received Eva’s first gift were enthusiastic with their feedback

“(They said) they were reading to the dogs and their stuffed toys,” Eva laughs. “This is perfect!’

So Eva decided, like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, to grow the project.

She titled it the “The Wonderful World of Books” ( and now offers a book a month to 130 children, with the help of 17 volunteers.

“We’re called the Book Elves,” Cathy says.

After Eva buys the books, attaches personalized labels in each one, and writes the child’s name on the envelope, the Book Elves hand-deliver them to young readers in five communities.

“Even the Book Elves are excited,” Cathy smiles. “Because it’s wonderful to give the gift of reading.”

It’s a gift that Sara Schreider and her three-year-old daughter Maria couldn’t feel more grateful for.

“She loves it,” Sara says, before they cuddle up on the couch to read the latest delivery for Maria.

It’s a love of literacy that Eva’s committed to keep funding every month for at least the next two years. She already has hundreds of books filling her closet, from classics to locally published authors.

“She’s just a go-go, energetic, inspiring, amazing person,” Cathy smiles.

And just like the heroines in all the great stories, Eva is proving that helping others is the best way to create your own “happily ever after.”

“It’s wonderful! It’s kept me alive,” Eva smiles. “And definitely, I’m happy!” Top Stories

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