By Sean Delaney
In May, 30 elementary schools across Canada learned that they would benefit from the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation's annual $1.5 million in Literacy Fund grants, and Emery’s Gulfstream Public School was one.
Indigo, Chapters and Coles stores across the country hosted community celebrations at their local grant school, where they revealed the grant amount and honoured the school's achievements and dedication to literacy.
Many students across Canada have limited access to books at home and they rely on their schools to provide early exposure to books and ignite a love of reading. Unfortunately, due to inadequate public funding, Canadian elementary schools struggle with offering healthy libraries that contain new and engaging material.
"The pervasive lack of books in Canadian high-needs elementary schools creates a devastating roadblock for many educators as they strive to teach their students to read," said Ariel Siller, executive director of the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation. "Our goal is to bridge the public funding gap and offer Canadian teachers and students the books and literacy resources they need to create powerful and enriching learning environments. Thanks to the support of Indigo employees and customers, we have the incredible opportunity to make a difference in the lives of thousands of children and inspire them to fall in love with reading."
Gulfstrem public school applied for a grant through the Foundation, who this year gave out $1.5 million across Canada.
"Thirty schools are receiving grants across Canada, and seven across Ontario," said teacher librarian Natalie Turato. "And we are one of the seven."
It sounds like a simple thing, kindergarten teacher Kristen Harrison said. But it was a very long process and a lot of work for the school’s literacy team.
"We got our team together in June and in September, and we met quite extensively. The two of use with another person wrote the grant application. It took about five months."
According to the team, it's basically a thesis. They had to gather statistics and scores on what the school is doing for literacy, including EQAO scores, the Learning Opportunity Index (LOI), parent surveys and more into a 23 page application document.
The win is about the application, the need and the number of students they explained.
"We had to really stipulate how we're going to spend that money," Harrison said.
And for Harrison, Turato and a majority of those surveyed, it was all about new books.
The school received $100,000 over three years, and is planning on acquiring new books to supplement classroom teaching with at home work, and establishing a classroom library.
After an internal survey, the team found their teachers were using their own money to have in-class libraries.
"Schools can't rely on free books to support a library," Turato said. "They need to be conscious purchases."
Gulfstream will also purchase some books to aid english as a second language students.
"This is one of the most diverse pockets on the planet, and Gulfstream is one of those schools that reflect that," said Toronto District School Board Trustee Christopher Mammoliti. "We should mention Indigo and the corporation giving back to the community in which they operate."
The Indigo Love of Reading Foundation's grants provide high-needs schools with an opportunity to grow their libraries and place more books in the hands of children in their communities. In addition to replacing resources that are damaged beyond repair as well as books with outdated material that are often 20 or more years old, teachers and students can choose books that reflect the needs of their classrooms and communities, thereby strengthening a love of reading.