Students from Blessed John Paul XXIII gather around a cheque from the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation. From left to right, principal Anna Chiesa, Jennifer Jones, Indigo Love of Reading Foundation director, Robin Huismans, Indigo Love of Reading Foundation co-ordinator, Bruce Rodrigues, TCDSB director of education, superintendent Michael McMorrow and vice-principal Jacqueline Puri. Photo by Evan Boudreau

School gets literacy grant for its ‘love of reading’ [w/ audio]

By 
  • June 14, 2012

TORONTO - Blessed John XXIII Catholic School students will no longer struggle with an outdated, under stocked and inadequate library thanks to a $119,000 Literacy Grant from the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation.

“We are looking forward to restocking the library with recent, relevant and leveled reading material,” said Jacqueline Puri, the school’s vice-principal who spearheaded the application process this winter. “It feels great.”

Established to address low literacy in underfunded schools across Canada, the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation is now in its eighth year.

To date the program has provided  $12 million to 130 elementary schools across Canada — money donated at the book chain’s customer, employee and corporate levels.

“These are fundamental things that are going to impact your life,” said Jennifer Jones, director of the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation. “Literacy is something that when you have it you don’t realize what it’s like to not have it. Most people assume that literacy is something that Canada tackled 150-odd years ago.”

With the additional resources, enough for about eight new books per student annually, Blessed John XXIII plans to implement new programs and sustain existing ones to encourage students to adopt reading as a pastime

Listen to the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation contacting the Blessed John XXIII Catholic School with the good news

“We look forward to a really exciting time of learning and developing our students,” said Puri. 

Boys, who statistically have weaker literacy skills, will continue to be targeted by the After School Basketball Program at the school in Toronto’s Flemingdon Park area. The once-a-week program combines reading and court time, 45 minutes of each, to promote the importance of balancing athletics with academics.

Students with English as a second language, about 35 per cent of the school’s population, will benefit from the Listening Centre where audio recordings can be used to supplement text.

Even parents in the community, where the average wage is about half of the national average, can reap the rewards of the Book in a Bag Program which sends literacy learning materials home with children.

“Most of the families in this area simply cannot afford to go out and get the literacy materials that they need,” said Rose Mary Barry, one of nine staff members who collaborated with Puri on the school’s application.

“Flemingdon Park is an area that is well recognized in Toronto as truly needy.”

“This is obviously a community that cannot continue to fundraise to close the gap between the budget they’ve received from the government and what they actually need to have a relevant library,” said Jones.

Being in need was only half of the criteria, said Jones. Schools selected for grants, 20 out of more than 200 applications this year, had to display initiative. Blessed John XXIII showed a genuine interest in the students’ future quality of life, Jones said.

“We were looking for schools that are already making literacy a priority even with the limited resources they have,” said Jones. “This is a school that is already doing so much. They developed a plan and demonstrated they were thoughtful in how this money is going to be used to impact the school not just in the short-term but for years to come.”

Currently 42 per cent of Canadians suffer with low literacy, leaving them struggling to read a bus map, take medicine properly and apply for new jobs, Jones said. Most suffer in silence because of the stigma surrounding illiteracy and low self-esteem, which perpetuates the problem, she said.

“We passionately believe that when you put a book in (a child’s) hands it changes their life forever.”

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