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Library reboot

Thanks to some major community donations, Niji Mahkwa School’s library is getting a new lease on life.

The school received a $60,000 Chapters-Indigo Love of Reading Grant last spring, which will support literacy initiatives at the school over a three-year period.

Principal Chris Goring  said the grant will support three main initiatives at Niji Mahkwa.

“One is to give our library a reboot and refresh our content,” Mr. Goring said. “We really want multiple genres of books that will help engage students and encourage their love of reading.”

That includes infusing the library with plenty of Indigenous content and authors.

 “We really believe that if students can see themselves reflected in the literature, they are more likely to read,” said Literacy Intervention Support Teacher Leanne Chernetz. “And it also builds their self-esteem and confidence.”

Retired WSD teacher-librarian Rebecca Decter, who now volunteers at the library, established a new book-exchange system, as well as building a separate collection for the Indigenous books.

“We’ve had parent volunteers in helping the entire time,” Ms. Decter said. “We weeded out old books, we organized and then I started ordering materials. We’ve also been training people to do the book exchanges.”

The Chapters-Indigo grant will also fund book collections in classroom libraries, as well as supporting the school in developing community literacy and family reading habits.

“A big goal is getting the books into the community,” said Literacy Support Teacher Jayne Forbes, who added that another objective is creating a lending library that serves the parents as well.

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Kirsten Benot, who is married to a Niji Mahkwa teacher, wrote the initial grant application. She agreed that the goal was to get as many books in the hands of students and families as possible.

“There is nothing better than having a kid engaged in a story book,” she said. “Technology doesn’t have the same tactile experience… and you don’t often see an adult reading from a device to a child. Stories bring people together, and that’s one of the things they’re trying to do in the library—they’re bringing adults in to read stories to the kids and I think that’s fantastic.”

The school held an official reopening of its library in February; every class got to tour the refurbished space and share in the celebration.

Share the magic

February also saw WSD and Share the Magic announce details of a partnership for a local initiative aimed at building a personal home library for each child starting with the Niji Mahkwa Nursery/Kindergarten class of 2017-2018.

The program works on the basis of ensuring students receive books of their choosing at regular intervals throughout the school year and over the summer months. The initiative, which began in September 2017, will continue to follow the children through every grade they attend Niji Mahkwa School.

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“Each month, I visit the Kindergarten/Nursery class and bring books for each child to choose at their current reading level,” says Chris Melnick, Executive Director, Share the Magic. “A book is also presented to the class as a whole for reading at school, ensuring the children are exposed to new reading on a monthly basis, both in the classroom and in their homes.”

Melnick says throughout the school year, every child will choose 10 books.  At the end of the school year, each child will choose an additional 17 books to have over the summer months.  Studies have shown that if a child has 17 books during periods when they are not in school, they will have the opportunity to maintain or increase their literacy levels.

In addition to providing children with their own library, WSD will collect data on literacy skill improvements as reported by teachers working with this group. The anecdotal evidence is expected to support whether the children appear more ready to learn, have an easier time learning and performing tasks and are achieving higher literacy levels then the children in other classes.

“Owning our own books is a privilege many of us take for granted, but which can make a huge difference in a child’s ability to do better in school and be more engaged in their learning,” said Celia Caetano-Gomes, WSD Superintendent of Education Services Curriculum and Learning Innovation. “This partnership with Share the Magic is helping us to better provide that ability to our students in one of our Inner City schools.”

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Other actions made possible through this partnership are year-end book give-aways, through which students from Nursery to Grade 8 at Niji Mahkwa can choose five books to call their own, providing them with good reading through the months of July and August.

Share the Magic is also partnering with Animichigewin, which is funded through community FACT grants to assist organizations like schools to run literacy and numeracy based family and parenting programs for families with children up to six years old. Local Elders and Knowledge Keepers go to Niji Mahkwa each month to share and read Indigenous stories to pre-school and early year's students. Families that participate each month have the opportunity to hear stories from the Elders and take part in literacy activities with light snacks and refreshments.

Share the Magic Book Program is a registered charity which aims to increase literacy levels in low income populations. The Program collects new and gently-used books for give away and community libraries, free of charge, in Manitoba communities that do not have many books.  Share the Magic gives away books for all ages, from baby books to adult fiction and non-fiction. To date Share the Magic has given away 420,000+ books.






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