To keep kids reading in a summer of closures and COVID-19, Raptors 905 put out a reading challenge to kids in Peel Region and provided 200 of them with the five books. (CTV News Toronto)

It’s been a summer full of books for Grade 5 students Muhammad, Dawoud and Trusten—thanks to a reading challenge from the Raptors 905. 

“Reading is the best way to improve my knowledge,” Muhammad tells CTV News Toronto.

“The book club is very beneficial,” adds his brother, Dawoud. “It’ll help you improve more and it’s kind of fun, too.”

The boys, ages 11 and 10, were among 200 kids in Peel Region selected for the reading challenge put on by the Raptors 905 in partnership with First Book Canada and Penguin Random House.

“They each got five books to read over a series of five weeks,” explains Genadyne Charr of the Raptors 905 organization. “Then, they get to engage with all of the authors on Fridays after finishing the books.”

The challenge, which means reading for a total of 905 minutes, also includes the opportunity to chat with Raptors 905 coach Jama Mahlalela over Zoom.

“We have to write and read,” explains Trusten. “So after we’re done one chapter, we have to write about the chapter.”

“As I’m going, I write notes to help me understand the book for my book report,” Dawoud adds.

The author of each week’s book in the challenge also joins in on the weekly Zoom conversation, Charr said.

“This year, we decided to go with Black authors in the community that students can read, engage with and learn,” he said.

Books featured in the challenge include "Dragons in a Bag," "No Small Potatoes," "Clean Getaway," "What Lane," and "Locomotion."

“If you look closely, the main characters of all books are all Black characters, or half-Black and a different ethnicity,” Muhammad explains. “So I really think that that’s really good, especially what’s been happening in the U.S. and also in Canada.”

The boys are half way through the reading challenge and say they are enjoying their new, educational way of connecting off the basketball court.

“We all take turns reading in a circle,” Muhhamad says. “We’re always there to help each other and we’re always friends.”

As for the Raptors 905, the organization says it’s thrilled to be encouraging kids to pick up some books this summer.

“We just hope with Raptors 905 that it continues to grow,” says Charr. “And that students are just continually excited to receive books and read with each other.”