By: Jason Sheppard
One local school is benefiting from a special program that brings the joy of reading to its students
On May 23rd, St. Teresa’s School in St. John’s was one of the six schools in the East Coast region of Canada to receive the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation Literacy Fund grant.
One of the main objectives of the foundation is to provide under-developed and under-funded school libraries with the resources they need to encourage and maintain a passion and desire for literacy among today’s young students.
Choosing St. Teresa’s
Kyran Dwyer is the principal of St. Teresa’s School. After discussing it with other staff members, they decided to apply for the grant. This past May, Dwyer was notified by Joanne Adams, general-manager of Coles bookstore in the Avalon Mall, that his school was chosen and that a presentation would be held on May 23rd.
“Coles contacted us to let us know we were chosen, but we didn’t know how much we won,” Dwyer told The Herald.
Staffers of Coles came by that day and Adams presented the school with a check for $100,000 along with around 600 books. Each student got to choose their own book to bring back to the classroom to start their own class library. This is something that is highly encouraged by Dywer and the school staff.
“We want students to have good literature at their fingertips at all times,” he expresses. “We want students to choose books from their own classroom.”
Ariel Siller is the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation’s Executive Director. She tells The Herald that the focus of the organization is to ensure that all high-needs elementary schools in Canada have access to new and engaging books for the students.
“Our core belief is that the teachers, libraries and principals are uniquely in position to introduce kids to books that will transform their view of themselves and the world around them.”
The foundation believes that children should be rich and confident readers by the time they complete third grade. Studies have shown that students who don’t acquire the basic skills necessary for learning through reading by a young age are more likely to drop out of high school later on.
“If we miss that opportunity to engage kids in reading and learning because teachers are working with outdated, tattered books, we’re really missing an opportunity to help children reach their full potential,” said Siller.
Due to a lack of money, many schools in Newfoundland and Labrador and across Canada have fallen behind in terms of providing desired reading materials and tools to augment students willingness to develop strong reading abilities.
It is common for many teachers to pay for materials out of their own pockets to encourage reading. Across Canada, that amount adds up to $200 million annually paid out of pocket by teachers themselves.
“We find that many of the schools we support have dedicated teachers who are super passionate about literacy and teaching, but due to limited resources they’re not able to bring as much energy and enthusiasm to their students for reading,” Siller adds. “So when these new books arrive in that community, there’s a whole new energy around reading and learning.”
While there are services and programs which do help, including youth scholarships, often the need is greater than what is provided. Many educators feel that there is a critical need for books, especially when many schools can only afford one book for every three children.
This is why organizations such as Indigo have created foundations such as Love of Reading to aid cash-strapped schools. The initiative distributes $1.5 million in funds to 30 schools across Canada each year. This is the 14th year schools have benefited from the grants. Since 2004, nearly $30 million has been distributed to more than 3,000 high-needs elementary schools benefiting some 900,000 students.
Besides books, the grants awarded to these schools will also mean new resources to build better libraries and update equipment with access to newer instruments.
“We want to enhance our library resources; both print and digital,” said Dwyer. “We also wanted to do a book-mobile which we will equip with high-interest quality literature that will go from class to class where children can choose books to their liking.”
The school has one book-mobile already but with this grant money, they now plan to add two more.
Dwyer has experienced first-hand what a program like this means to them.
“Oh my God, I wish you could have seen what this means to our students,” Dwyer exclaimed. “The joy! The awe on these kids faces was just – they’re still talking about it. How they got to pick out their own book.”
Adds Dwyer, “It’s all about gaining the students interest in reading, because we all know the importance of it.”