About us

Twice Upon a Time started small. In 2014, founding President Alexandra Yarrow and a number of volunteers from different backgrounds were brought together through a shared passion for reading and a belief in the importance of early literacy.

Inspired by a visit to the Children’s Book Bank in Toronto, Ontario, librarian Alexandra decided that children in communities across Ottawa could also benefit from access to free books.

Initially, volunteers set up a “free pop-up bookshop” in the lobby of Heartwood House in Ottawa’s Vanier neighbourhood. As Twice Upon a Time grew, more bookshops were set up in other locations in Ottawa, including the Taggart YMCA, the Overbrook Community Centre and various BGC Ottawa clubhouses. Children ages 0 to 12 years old could visit the sites as often as they liked and were encouraged to pick out a book to keep at each visit.

We envision Twice Upon a Time as a complement to excellent public library service. Many families bring their children to the library, but many do not, because they are afraid of potential fines or costs for lost material, or other perceived or real barriers. And even if families visit the library, studies have shown that children do better in school when there are books at home. (Alexandra Yarrow, founding President, Interview with The Awesome Foundation)

After years of growth, the pandemic forced Twice Upon a Time to seek out new ways to provide books to young readers. Working with new community partners, Twice Upon a Time and its volunteers distributed books through health centres, doctors’ offices and schools.

Fast forward to 2023. With the pandemic now over, Twice Upon a Time is undertaking a review of its service delivery model. Through this process, we will renew and strengthen partnerships within the community and explore new ways to meet our mission of giving free books to kids.

The review has been an opportunity to celebrate our past accomplishments and consider our future goals and aspirations. We look forward to providing our stakeholders with more information about this exciting new chapter of Twice Upon a Time in 2024!