How To Change A Life.

I have always wondered, what it would take to change someones life. To change someones whole perspective on the world, in a positive way. I wanted to find out what it took to change a life. Then I thought about my platform; the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation. I realized that, every year this foundation changes lives. They supply children with the things that they need to learn.

To raise awareness for my platform, I decided to interview two principals from two schools in Edmonton, that had been affected by the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation.

The first interview was with Will Deys, Principal at Glendale Elementary school. Glendale school have just finished their 3 years with a Love of Reading grant. Mr. Deys was happy to answer my questions, although he is only in his first year at the school, so he is unaware of all the details regarding the application for the grant.

 

 

 

 

Chloe: How did you find out about the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation?

Will: a. This is my first year at Glendale School so I cant really answer this. I believe that the teacher and Library Technician that applied for the grant would have read about it on-line or through e-mails advertising the grant. In smaller schools like ours, we are always looking for new sources of funding to help students.

Chloe: What made you apply for a grant from the foundation?

Will: a. As mentioned above, additional funds are always required to help provide adequate resources for schools where the families may have limited incomes. We also recognize that reading is the foundation for learning. Anything we can do to encourage reading will benefit the students through their entire lives.

Chloe: How did you feel about the application process?

Will: a. Not sure, as I didn’t go through the application process, but I did do the reporting process this spring. It takes a significant amount of time to get the applications completed because of the information they request. You need to find out information about your communities average income and other information that schools do not generally have access to. That makes it hard. But the information ensures that the schools that receive the grant are those that are most in need of the support.

Chloe: What happened after you received the grant, in regards to receiving books for your school?

Will: a. In each year of the grant the school purchased books around a theme or specific area, as well as just purchasing general interest books.

b. In the past year, also the final year of the three year grant, we purchased books for every grade level and reading level that we possibly could. Our goal was to ensure that every student had a book that they would be interested in, and that they could read.

c. Books were obtained in a few different ways. Teachers and students went to the Indigo store to purchase their books for their classrooms. The library technician also went to the Indigo store to purchase books for the library. In the past year we have used visits to the store to purchase books, along with on-line purchases as they made it easier to order some of the books that might not have been in stock in the store.

Chloe: How has the student body changed in a positive way, after receiving the grant?

Will: a. I believe that this past year we really created an excitement about reading as we constantly had new books for the kids to read. They loved to be the first to read the new Geronimo Stilton, or the latest Bone graphic novel. Students were sharing their stories about their books and looking forward to getting the next book in a series. We have created a culture of reading at the school and believe that we have provided a book that every student is interested in. Unfortunately, the grant came to an end and it is getting harder to maintain that enthusiasm. Next year we will be purchasing new books and we hope to purchase so many new books per month to ensure we are always bringing in new books to keep the student engaged.

Chloe: How do you promote reading within the school?

Will: a. At Glendale School we have promoted reading through events like “Read In Week” where we bring in guests to read their favorite books to the students. We also brought in Canadian writer David Bouchard to speak to our students about his books on aboriginal stories and poetry.

b. New books were presented to students so they could see what was new. Often, a chapter or book synopsis was read to students so they knew what the general story was about. This was one of the most effective ways to generate interest.

c. Next year students will take part in a reading contest where they will have the opportunity to compete with others by reading. We also hope to have a way for students to review books for the entire school to hear and read.

d. Finally, the most important way to promote reading is by having the books that students want to read. This past year we have added to our Manga and Graphic novels as we recognize that they are an excellent way to get reluctant readers engaged. A book for everyone is the goal, and we made it!

Chloe: If there is anything else you would like to add, please do so.

Will: This Love of Reading program is so meaningful to schools. The Indigo store staff and people who manage the foundation do an incredible job of making the priority to get books in the hands of students. The three year program was incredible for such a small school like ours. I hope that it will continue to benefit other schools for years to come.

My second interview was with Sanaa El-Hassany, Principal of John A. McDougall School. Having recently received the wonderful news about the grant, Sanaa was very pleased to answer questions I had about the foundation, and how it will affect her school.

 

Chloe: How did you find out about the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation?

Sanaa: We found out about this grant when researching online for grants that could help us to support our work in literacy.

Chloe: What made you apply for a grant from the foundation?

Sanaa: At John A. McDougall School we have a very high needs population of students, many of whom struggle with literacy. Research tells us that students who are unable to read at grade level by the time they are in grade three have great difficulty ever catching up and are far more likely to struggle in a variety of areas as they grow up. We have made literacy the focus of our work because it is the best way that we can ensure the future success of students in our school.

In providing high quality literacy instruction, it is absolutely essential that students have access to good literature. Our primary goal in applying for this grant was to bring our current libraries to life by stocking them with the best possible selection of books and giving students direct access to those books. Our school has been faced with the difficult decision to put the majority of our funding into intervention, building capacity in teachers and smaller class sizes. This left a minimal allocation for resources, forcing us to look elsewhere to meet this critical need. We need to get good books into the hands of kids and this grant provides the means.

Chloe: How did you feel about the application process? What was involved in putting together the application for the grant?

Sanaa: The application was extensive and very time consuming. We created a committee of staff who volunteered to work together on the application. Each member took responsibility for a component of the application. It took many hours of discussion, research, writing and editing.

Chloe: How did you react when you were told that your school had received a Love of Reading grant?

Sanaa: We had an initial moment of shock and disbelief and then we were absolutely ecstatic! There were cheers, high fives all around. This grant will have an incredible impact on the students in our building and the quality of literacy instruction we will be able to provide.

Chloe: What happens now, in regards to receiving books for your school?

Sanaa: We are currently working on a detailed plan of how we are going to spend the grant money. In each library area (central, classroom and guided reading) we are taking an inventory of our resources, removing outdated or worn books and creating our wish lists so that we can begin purchasing books in a thoughtful, organized manner. Classroom teachers, literacy intervention teachers and students all have input into the lists of literature that we will be purchasing.

Chloe: How has the student body responded to this exciting news?

Sanaa: We received the phone call informing us that we had won the grant just 15 minutes before all of our students were due to have a joint activity in the gym. We seized this moment to share the news. The response was deafening! This is big news and students are excited to have the opportunity to share their ideas when it comes to purchasing books for classrooms. The buzz and excitement around this grant will generate an even greater interest in reading and books.

Chloe: How do you promote reading within the school?

Sanaa: Reading is an integral part of everyday at John A. McDougall School. Every classroom has at least one hour of the day dedicated to reading instruction, five days a week. In addition to this, we identify all struggling readers and provide as many of these children as possible with additional reading intervention in a one-to-one or small group setting. These intervention groups are taught by specially trained reading intervention teachers and occur for ½ an hour, five days a week. We also have a school wide home reading program in which students are encouraged to read at home every day and track the amount of reading they have done. Each month one classroom is awarded new books for demonstrating commitment to reading at home. In addition, we have a fabulous teacher librarian who promotes literature through book recommendations, and read aloud to all of our classrooms.

A big thanks goes out to Sanaa, and Will, for answering my questions, which helped me a lot in understanding how the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation affects children all across Canada. I now feel even more strongly about my platform, and I will continue to promote my platform, so that everyone can become aware of the literacy struggles that many people and schools are facing.

So now when I ask myself how to change a life, I know that it can be anything. Anyone can change someones life, anytime, anyplace. Small things can help people when they are down, anything to help them get back up onto their feet.

It can be as simple as buying a child a book…