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Inner-city students go book shopping with literacy grant

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It only took 30 minutes for a handful of inner-city elementary school students to rack up $2,000 worth of books last week.


On Oct. 19, students from Dufferin and Sister MacNamara schools filled the Empress Street location of Chapters bookstore to stock up on new books for their respective classrooms.


The two schools received grants worth $53,000 and $105,000 respectively from the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation Literacy Fund.


Jennifer Forsyth, a Grade 1 teacher and chair of Sister MacNamara’s literacy committee, said the money will rejuvenate the school’s aging book collection.


The grant will be provided over a three-year period, Forsyth said. And while money being spent this year is going towards restocking individual class libraries, next year’s batch of funding will go towards the expanding the school’s library.


Currently, the school’s library budget is around $5,000, or $10 per student.


"It’s never enough because books are very expensive and you’re always trying to replace the most popular books," she said.


"Having so many books available to the kids ignites that love of reading, because we can get so many more books, and hopefully pick ones that have a broad range of interest."


Since 2004, Chapters has provided $9 million to 90 elementary schools in Canada as part of the program, store manager Christine Turczyn said. Schools have to apply for the grant, she said.


"One kid was like, ‘This is so much better than our library!’" she said.


"(The grant is) giving them an experience that will probably last a lifetime and books they would never have been able to have and associate with. We’ve given them ample opportunity now to expand their knowledge."


Rick Boucher, whose two daughters attend Dufferin School, said a wider variety of books in the library will help his daughters with their learning.


"When we first found out, it was very exciting for them," he said.


"Our books at our school are quite old, but with this new library, it gives them opportunity to explore."


As part of the funding, the schools earmark $3,500 each year toward a literacy project.


Sister MacNamara plans to continue its Tell Me A Story program in which students plan and present stories to the public, Forsyth said. The plan is to expand the program to include a variety of performers and storytellers, she said.

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matt.preprost@canstarnews.com

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