Kildala Elementary School was recently awarded a grant from the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation to buy new equipment for their school.
The program, which provides funding to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other education- and charity-based organizations, granted $6,104.40 to Kildala Elementary, who chose to use the money to purchase books.
“We have French and English, so each kid got to pick two books [to take home], some of the teachers have got to pick books for their class libraries,” Janelle Hittel, Principal at Kildala Elementary, said. “And then we have a StrongStart program here, as well, so [they] got some books for the StrongStart program, and then our preschool program, as well.”
Rose Lipton, Executive Director of the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation, said that they wanted to provide the funding to groups that they knew would be able to provide the books and other equipment to kids during the pandemic so they could continue reading and learning while at home or away from school.
“We were designing this program to cast a broad net and ensure that books could reach kids in such an uncertain time,” Lipton said. “And in particular, this school, we were really struck by just the diversity of their community, the innovation of their educators, and just their capacity to mobilize so quickly.”
Hittel said it was Courtney Preyser, a librarian and music teacher at Kildala Elementary, who applied for the grant on behalf of the school. They were all very surprised when they got it, Hittel said, especially given the grants are given to groups across the entirety of Canada.
She added that they were supposed to get the books in June, to be able to give them out to the students to keep them reading over the summer, but unfortunately the books were delayed due to COVID-19.
“We were actually really surprised and thrilled that we were able to access all these books for our families,” Hittel said. “That was unfortunate that we didn’t get them in time for [summer], but better late than never!”
They then hoped to hand them out during ‘Meet the Teacher Night’ in September, but that event didn’t happen either, so the kids were able to grab their books during their library time instead.
“We thought, well that’s a good time to get the parents in, then they can read the books with the kids, and kind of do a little thing that way, but it was just kind of a class-by-class during their library time,” Hittel said.
Hittel said the books were chosen by teachers and what was of interest to their classes, as well as by the librarians, who knew which books were most popular for students these days. Several French books were also ordered for the French immersion classes and for students who were simply interested in reading them.
“You really enable schools to select the content that will be most meaningful to them,” Lipton said, “and they understand the students the best, so we really believe in a student voice and a school choice over the books they choose.”
Amanda Schwandt is a parent in the Kildala Elementary community and said that her children loved the books they got to take home.
“Aiyden loves to read the younger aged book to his baby brother and at night he reads a novel to himself in bed!” Schwandt wrote in an email. “We thank you for the wonderful reading material!”
Kristy Da Costa’s son, James, is in Grade Three at Kildala Elementary, and she said he was very excited to see that he could bring home some of the books he had really been wanting.
“James was SO thrilled to receive two new [Dog Man] books! He had asked if we could buy those exact books earlier in the week and I had told him he would have to wait and ask Santa for them at Christmas time,” Da Costa said in an email. “He fell asleep that night clutching both of his new books. He has read them every day since!”
Meghan Marshall, the Library Clerk at Kildala Elementary, said that their main order included lots of graphic novels, as those are very popular among students these days. So much so that many older series, such as The Baby-Sitters Club, for example, are rewriting their stories as graphic novels to appeal to today’s kids, Marshall added.
Overall, the books were a hit, and both Hittel and Lipton said they were glad Kildala Elementary was chosen as a recipient for the grant.
“The Love of Reading Foundation always selects recipients that we feel could really use the resources right away, and that have a really huge and meaningful impact on communities,” Lipton said. “And [that] get books into the hands of kids when they need them the most.”