Richard Van Camp is about to get some new lifelong fans. When we say lifelong, we mean it.
The Tłı̨chǫ author's books will be given away to newborns and their families at Yellowknife's Stanton Territorial Hospital, through an initiative sponsored by Gahcho Kué mine operator De Beers.
On behalf of the Stanton Territorial Hospital Foundation, De Beers has paid for 700 of Van Camp's books to be included in packages sent home with all new parents and infants. Two titles are included: the Fort Smith author's 2007 lullaby book Welcome Song for Baby, and his 2013 book Little You.
De Beers already runs a separate Books in Homes program for older children from kindergarten to grade 12.
"We want to make a difference," Gahcho Kué mine general manager Allan Rodel – who confessed to not having read the books – told Cabin Radio.
"It's about leaving a legacy. This is an opportunity to reach into the next generation and it's a natural extension of our existing programs."
Sandra Mackenzie, chair of the Stanton Territorial Hospital Foundation, gave birth to son Liam five months ago.
"The care we received here was amazing." said Mackenzie, who already owns a copy of Welcome Song for Baby.
"When you leave the hospital, you leave with a package that includes a bunch of forms, resources for new parents, and a book. That makes you feel supported, like you're not alone, that the resources and help are there and the community is supporting you.
"It makes it feel a little less daunting."
Van Camp, who could not be present for a ceremony at the hospital on Friday, said in a news release: "A family that reads together grows together in the most wonderful ways and I am grateful my words will be with families across the north as they grow and dream together."
The NWT's birth rate has proved remarkably steady recently, with between 662 and 670 births each year from 2013 to 2017.
Asked if 700 books would cover the number of babies born at Stanton in the coming year, Rodel joked: "We think it's going to be tight."