Book chain makes big effort for Morris Academy

The library at Morris Academy is about to add some sparkling new titles as the Mount Pearl elementary school has been chosen to participate in the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation’s ‘Adopt a School’ program.

Coles bookstore in the Avalon Mall is fundraising on the school’s behalf until October 9.  The money and books gathered will improve the school’s library and the resources offered to the students.

According to Ariel Siller, Executive Director of the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation, the foundation “exists to help bridge the gap in provincial underfunding of public elementary school libraries – which we consider to be at the heart of every school.”

The library at Morris Academy

The library at Morris Academy

The Adopt a School program is a grassroots campaign that pairs high-needs elementary schools with stores in their communities to fundraise for books.

Paula Anderson, the teacher librarian at Morris Academy, said she received a call in June from Coles, asking if the school would like to be the recipient of this year’s fundraising efforts. “So I thought, ‘Oh my gosh that’s really, really exciting,’” Anderson said, “because we don’t have a budget for our library, we don’t have regular incoming funds to keep our library up to date.”

The program invites all participating Indigo, Chapters, and Coles stores across Canada to “adopt” a local school and fundraise for its library during a three-week campaign. Siller said the response this year has been outstanding, with schools taking part in every province. The qualifying elementary schools have a library budget of less than 30 dollars per student per year, which leaves many of them with old, outdated, and insufficient library resources.

“Morris Academy has an annual library budget of only one dollar per child, with the mean age of books in their library spanning between 10 and 20 years old,” said Siller. “This means that the average book in Morris Academy’s library is older than the vast majority of its students.”

There are a few ways the people of Mount Pearl can get involved, with the first being a monetary donation at the check-out of the Avalon Mall Coles location or online. And if you donate the equivalent price of two books, $20 dollars, Coles will donate the cost of a third book, worth $10 dollars, for free. There is also a short story admission section on the Indigo website called “Tell a Story, Give a Story” that allows supporters to tell a story about reading, the best library experience they’ve ever had, or why the school you support is so deserving of the opportunity. If the story is featured, they will give a book to the school on your behalf.

Statistics from Indigo suggest there is a shocking 43 percent of students leaving high school who do not have the literacy skills necessary for employment in the Canadian job market. The Adopt a School program aims to promote literacy in the selected schools by means of new resources and highlight how access to additional books can have an impact on the students.

“I think it’s super important that the kids are motivated and they maintain their interest in reading, said Anderson. “With today’s digital world, it’s becoming a thing that needs to be encouraged more and more. Studies out there are showing that it doesn’t matter so much what they’re reading, it matters that they’re reading.”

Siller added that “as booklovers, we know that relevant and engaging books are vital to fostering strong literacy skills and a lifelong love of reading in children. We have heard from our colleagues at Coles that Morris Academy teachers ‘go above and beyond’ to provide for their students.”

Anderson appreciates the support from the local Coles store and Indigo. “If you’re working from a school library that has outdated resources or books that are just not visually appealing to the children, or they’re not current, there is little motivation,” she allowed.

With the money from the fundraiser, Anderson said she will be able to survey the students and get a grasp of what books they would like to see in the library, as well as have a conversation with the teachers to see what kind of resources they would like to match their curriculum.

According to Anderson, the fundraiser has a reputation for being very successful and they are expecting about $3,000 worth of books to accumulate over the three-week period. A number of students from each grade will be chosen to help Anderson pick out the new library material, and she said they will be thrilled to go once they become aware of their chance to help with the book choices. “When they can choose the books, of course, they are going to be more motivated and their interest in reading is going to be maximized,” she said.

Siller noted that the school has raised 107 books so far through the online profile and from its partnership with Coles.

Anderson said the program is great because it doesn’t disrupt anything at the school like the annual book fair does, and involves no big effort on the part of the staff as Coles is spearheading the entire event; all the students and teachers have to do is participate and be grateful for the opportunity.

“They (the students) get super excited whenever we have a book fair, it’s incredible,” Anderson said. “When they see the new books that come in they can’t wait to have their library day to check out a new book.”