Mine Centre School among recipients of literacy grant

By Ken Kellar
Staff writer

Mine Centre School is receiving a significant sum of money to help foster a love of reading in their students.

The school was revealed to be one of this year’s recipients of the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation’s Literacy Fund grant, a program which aims to provide funding to what the foundation calls “high-needs” elementary schools across Canada. According a press release from the Foundation, more than $33-million has been committed to over 3,000 such schools through the grant since their inception in 2004. Mine Centre School was awarded $10,000 through this year’s grant.

Rose Lipton is the executive director for the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation. She explained that the whole goal of the Foundation is to promote a love of reading in children and youth across the country, specifically in communities where access to books might be restricted for one reason or another.

“I think so often Canadians take for granted that they had access to books or a well-resourced library when they were younger,” Lipton said.

“They forget that particularly students in rural or remote communities, or communities that don’t have the capacity or budget to really resource their school libraries, that they may not have those same opportunities that so many Canadians may have had. That’s really what we exist to do, to help close that gap and ensure that all kids have access to books.”

Lipton said that one of the big benefits of the grant, which has been the cornerstone of the Foundation since its inception, is that the changes that are brought about because of the funding are both significant and long-lasting. The money that comes through the grant works to revitalize elementary school libraries, purchasing hundreds of books for students.

“This is sometimes doubling, tripling, quadrupling an annual school library budget,” Lipton said.

“The idea is that it’s a really transformational grant that benefits the schools for years to come. At Mine Centre School, they were saying some of their school library books are 25 years old, so you can see obviously this is going to have an impact and that they will be able to continue to turn books over more frequently than that. It will benefit many kids for many years.”

The Foundation receives hundreds of applications for the grant each year. Lipton explained that one of the key components they look for when it comes time to select schools to receive funding is their dedication to literacy and creating real change in their students. Schools that have been awarded the grant in the past have presented a strong vision for how they will put the money to use to benefit the school population in the event they are selected.

“That vision, regardless of what it is as we’re not prescriptive, but having a clear vision for how they want to use the grant is a big piece,” Lipton said.

“Mine Centre had that so well. They were really clear on wanting to bring in culturally relevant books, to support land-based outdoor classroom learning, so I think that vision is the essential piece. What really made them stand out was that strong connection to community and the passion that the school had for connecting kids to that deeper community connection.”

The overall process of assessing and awarding the grants was complicated due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with Lipton explaining that the applications were originally submitted before the virus shut almost everything down, including schools. That meant that the Foundation had to go back to the schools and ensure they still had the capacity and interest to continue with the plans they had.

“It took a lot longer to get from beginning to end,” Lipton said.

“But I think in that way, there also was a tremendous commitment. I don’t know if one of the schools we were working with said ‘no we can’t handle it.’ They all showed such a tremendous dedication and commitment to finding ways to get books to kids. From a national standpoint, we saw teachers doing book drop offs at people’s houses, a lot of care packages going out, school librarians carting books from classroom to classroom because libraries were closed. There was a ton of innovation but the constant was that educators, parents and kids together were really committed to reading and finding ways to make reading happen.”

No one has had an easy time of the pandemic, but Lipton said she was impressed by just how hard schools and educators worked to stay connected with and support their students during uncertain times. Awarding the Foundation’s Literacy Fund Grant, then, is a chance for some of these schools to have a moment of celebration.

“That’s why we wanted to talk about it almost at the end of the school year as a lookback moment,” Lipton said.

“So I really just hope that comes through, the commitment of educators, caregivers, parents, students, to keep education as a priority through a really difficult year.”