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The ABCs of summer holidays

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Grade 4 and 5 students at Strathmillan Elementary School collected 1,477 books for their book swap.

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Grade 4 and 5 students at Strathmillan Elementary School collected 1,477 books for their book swap. Photo Store

The number "1,477" has special meaning to the students at Strathmillan Elementary School — it’s the number of books they recently collected for their book swap. 

Under the guidance of reading clinician Heather Khan and teacher Randal Bychuk, a group of Grades 4 and 5 students took on the project, which was financed through a grant from the St. James-Assiniboia School Division.

The ultimate goal of the project was to encourage reading and writing over the summer months, and to supply every Strathmillan student with books and ideas to keep their literacy skills active. The grant covered the cost of one new book per student and writing materials, such as decorated writing paper, sticky notes, thank you cards, notepads and postcards. The package also included: writing inspirations and recommendations for students and parents, such as keeping diaries of summer holidays or special trips; writing letters or postcards to family members; drawing pictures of a special event and writing a story to go with it; or, writing out the family grocery list and helping with the shopping.

The possibilities are endless. What’s remarkable about this project is that the students were involved throughout the entire process — from conception to completion.  

With assistance, they penned a letter of appeal to the Winnipeg Public Library and all Strathmillan School families for book donations. As the books began to pour in, the students spearheading took on their next task — collecting, counting and cleaning the donated books.  

Classroom bins were emptied daily and, at the end of each week, the books were sorted into piles of 10.

After tidying up the 1,477 donations, the students categorized them using a SmartBoard and sorted the books into their different genres (the students were very proud to inform me of the meaning of ‘genre’).  A nearby classroom was transformed into a book store, complete with balloons and beautifully-decorated posters, well-organized tables and book suggestions for the varying age groups.

Each of the 15 classrooms that visited the store was welcomed by the student leaders and given a well-rehearsed rundown on the expectations of their visit. As well as receiving the writing inspirations package, each student was allowed to choose two used and one new book.
At the end of the project, there were a large number of books left over, which are being donated to a community school in need.

As teacher Bychuk said: "I think the event was really successful because the kids were responsible for all aspects of the programming and delivery of the project. They worked out every detail with our guidance."

I am very proud of these young leaders, and how they took ownership of such a positive opportunity. Way to go Strathmillan!

Wanda Prychitko is a Community Correspondent from St. James-Assiniboia. Please contact wprychitko@yahoo.ca with any interesting community story ideas.

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