From left to right, St. Elizabeth principal Sherryann Ambrose, Hannah Kyazike (Grade 7), Khloe D’Cruz (Grade 7), Lucas W. (Grade 5), Kobi Daulo (Grade 7) and library technician Jennifer Miles-Jones. Photo courtesy St. Elizabeth School

New library brings sparkle to student eyes

  • April 1, 2022

Students at Etobicoke’s St. Elizabeth Catholic School can’t hide their elation with the school’s new and improved library, staff happily report.

“When (the students) came in the library, you could hear their reaction,” said library technician Jennifer Miles-Jones. “They were saying, ‘Look at the books on the shelves,’ and ‘This is my favourite book.’ It’s so inspiring to hear the excitement in their voices. The youngest students sat on the carpet at the opening and their eyes just panned over all the books. It’s really fun to see the excitement of the kids.”

That elation is shared by school staff who were delighted to see this excitement spread through their students when the library opened on March 23.

The library had been closed in 2017 due to staffing challenges. Ever since staff and the Catholic School Parent Council have worked to have it re-opened. With new carpets, bean bag chairs and shelves filled with colourful new books, they are grateful to once again have a library through which they can inspire the joy of reading in their students.

When Sherryann Ambrose started as principal in 2019, parents in the community asked for the library to be re-opened and she committed to making it a priority. It has been a joy, Ambrose says, to see the school’s labour of love finally come to fruition.

In conjunction with the pandemic and the closure of public libraries across the city, there are students in the junior grades who have never been to a library.

“I really believe it’s fundamental for every school to have a library,” said Ambrose.

More than getting the library up and running again, the goal was to create one that reflected the diverse school community. With students from backgrounds around the globe it was important to create an environment that reflected that.

“The fact that the kids can come to the library and see themselves in books is amazing, because not having enough books that are representative of the student population has been a challenge,” said Ambrose. “To be able to be creative working with the staff and the parents to have a rich library that kids can visit and have a sense of belonging, develop that joy of reading and see people who look like them, can aspire them to become. It’s simply amazing. I am just thrilled and so very thankful for the collective efforts that got us to this point.”

New culturally relevant titles include books such as Hair Love by Matthew Cherry, All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman and Nibi’s Water Song by Chief Lady Bird, about the clean water crisis in an Indigenous community. At the opening the school received a donation called My Unique Name by TCDSB educator Chynika Wright. The book is about encouraging students to embrace their ethnically diverse names.

Seventh graders Khloe D’Cruz, Hannah Kyazike and Kobi Daulo along with fifth grader Lucas W can still remember the old library and say the renewed space is a huge improvement.

Kyazike most looks forward to starting a book club with her friends. Daulo has his eyes on some of the titles in the new book display and looks forward to taking advantage of his borrowing privileges to re-read some of his old favourites and dig into some new titles. D’Cruz has been reading more novels as of late and has already seen titles she is ready to find a cozy spot in the new library to devour. Lucas W is most excited about the new learning he hopes to gain from the titles.

“We can implement so many things from these books into our real lives like languages, (understanding) different cultural backgrounds and words,” said Lucas W. “For the younger kids, they can also build a greater community in the library, because when they read these books they get smarter and expand their knowledge.”

The parent council has played a huge role in raising funds for the project. It has also set up a fundraiser through Indigo Books and has applied for financial awards to further support the library with reading materials.

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