Every student at Sutherland School has a new book in their hand and there are hundreds more still to come for the school's library and classrooms thanks to a major donation from the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation.
Cheering and shouts of excitement greeted a May 23 announcement that the school would receive $65,000 over three years to build library resources, improve access to books that reflect the needs and demographics of the school community, and help fund opportunities to engage both students and parents in reading.
The event included an afternoon reading celebration as staff from Coles Bookstore at the Lawson Heights Mall engaged students in activities. Each student was also able to choose a book to add to the classroom library.
The grant was the result of a an application by teacher-librarian Kerri Nakonenshny, resource teacher Tracy Shnell-Persson and community coordinator Lori Pulai that outlined the school's need and highlighted how funding would support the work being done by teachers to create a community of readers at Sutherland School.
"We know that if we can enhance and build our school library for our students, this will support their reading, writing and learning outcomes," the submission reads. "We want to provide students with direct access to quality books from a variety of genres by building classroom libraries."
Cheryl Kunkel of Indigo told students they were happy to announce Sutherland had been approved for the grant to strengthen its library and support the school's commitment to literacy.
"At Indigo we have a really special program called Love of Reading. This reading program is really cool. We raise money in our stores to give to schools across the country every year, but only really special schools get to participate," she said.
The school's submission noted that its library collection does not reflect the reading ability of students or the diversity of the student population, particularly when it comes to new Canadian and English as an Additional Language students.
The library, along with books available through individual classroom teachers, are the primary and often only source of reading material for a significant number of Sutherland students. Using the Love of Reading funding to build the library collection and create classroom libraries will go a long way to way to responding to the complaint of one student that "I read them all already!"
High quality books that better match the reading level of students, additional fiction books for recreational reading at the higher grade levels, and non-fiction books that support character education with messages of respect, tolerance and kindness are some of the identified areas of need.
Building a "culture of reading" among the entire school community is an important goal. The school will invite families join in and support the goal through events such as literacy fairs and book 'n bagel mornings. The funding will benefit opportunities such as book clubs for both students and adults, conversation circles for EAL families, a Pik a Book Picnic, the use of reading mentors and tutors and strengthening partnerships with community organizations, all thing that support the school's literacy goals.