A program aiming to draw attention to the underfunding of Canadian elementary school libraries has chosen Powell River’s James Thomson Elementary School as one of 573 schools to receive funds.
Coles bookstore, owned by Indigo Books, is currently fundraising on behalf of the parent company’s ninth annual Adopt a School program. The goal of the program is to add one book in school libraries for every child and to raise awareness for the literacy challenges facing high-needs elementary schools.
According to Indigo Love of Reading Foundation, which sponsors the Adopt a School program, 30 per cent of Canadian grade three students lack basic literacy skills.
“We have a lot of kids who are two to three grade levels behind in their reading,” said James Thomson principal Jasmin Marshman. “Their numeracy literacy and knowing their letters and words is really important and a big drive that we have because we know if they're not at grade level by grade three, that's the cutoff where the real struggle begins.”
James Thomson is a high-needs and language-immersion school offering French and English. Both streams are complemented with Tla'amin Nation culture, language and learning. Marshman said many teachers and community residents call the school in Wildwood trilingual or tri-cultural.
“We try to weave all of it through the school, honouring English, French and Tla'amin languages and, visually, as much as we can represent it,” said Marshman.
A large emphasis is placed on the environment and ecology at the school, she added.
“The plums and grapes we ate today were from the students’ own homes,” she said. “We have the school garden, which is huge and flourishing. Kids go at recess and lunch and eat out there constantly. If you go out at recess they're always eating kale.”
Grade seven student Eli Hueston, 12, is fond of the garden and options offered by the school.
“I like how we have such a big garden,” said Hueston, “and the teachers are really nice and it's cool that there are three languages you can learn.”
The environment at James Thomson is meant to value students as soon as they step off the bus in the morning, according to Marshman.
“They see something from their culture, or their class or their background, and it's visual here for them to feel they belong,” she said.
Books engage children in their elementary years, according to Marshman. Funds raised by the Adopt a School program are needed in a variety of areas, including French for high-interest but low-vocabulary children who are not yet reading, English books, non-fiction and up-to-date science books.
“We did a cull a few years ago and it was a little frightening,” said Marshman. “Now we're looking at putting in more up-to-date, honest, real science.”
The Adopt a School program ends on Sunday, October 8. Donations can be made in-store at Coles in Town Centre Mall or online at adoptaschool.indigo.ca.