As colleagues at schools elsewhere figure out how to make due with less, Penticton teacher-librarian Paula Baker is writing up a plan to spend a sixfold increase in her book budget.
McNicoll Park Middle School was this week awarded a grant from the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation that will see its library receive $55,000 over the next three years, a massive increase from the annual $3,000 allotment with which Baker currently works.
“This is crazy what we’re getting,” she said. “I can’t even imagine how we’re going to spend it.”
The school is one of 20 across Canada this year to share in $1.5 million in grants from the foundation. Baker said McNicoll opened in the 1960s as a junior secondary. It became a middle school about a decade ago, and while the students became younger, the library material’s orientation did not.
“The stuff that’s on the shelf right now, most of it’s beyond what the kids will read,” she said.
Jennifer Jones, director of the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation, said the need for help refreshing the school’s collection was readily apparent in its grant request.
“We received a couple hundred applications from across Canada, and what set McNicoll apart is first of all their absolute financial need,” she said. “Their library budget allows for $12 per child in the school. That means that they could afford maybe one book for every child. A healthy library requires three to four (books) every year to maintain the current titles and replenish.”
The foundation is funded by profits from Indigo and its subsidiary book store chains Coles and Chapters, plus donations from customers and employees.
“A book is the biggest tool (kids) can get to allow them to grow and read and explore. It’s still — in our opinion and most teachers’ opinion — absolutely critical for their development,” Jones said.
Baker is unsure how she’ll spend her newly enhanced budget, but wants to strike a balance between keeping up with popular fiction, updating reference material and possibly purchasing a set of e-readers.
“The kids are pumped,” she added. “They’re thrilled to get more books in hand, because, yeah, they do want to read. Once kids get to the point where reading is comfortable and they discover the joy of reading, yeah, they want to read.”