Checking out ‘human books’


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East Kildonan

In celebration of “I Love to Read” month, students at John Pritchard School got go to the library and take out a “human book” at their Human Library event on Feb. 9.

Rather than reading in a book about a person, place or occupation, the students were engaged by an amazing group of guest “books” who came to tell their story.

Teacher-librarian Liz Loewen arranged the event for her school.

<p>Photo by Wendy Hrynkiw</p>
                                <p>Winnipeg Police Service chief Danny Smythe, teacher-librarian Liz Loewen, and Winnipeg Police Insp. George Labossiere are surrounded by students from John Pritchard School.</p>

Photo by Wendy Hrynkiw

Winnipeg Police Service chief Danny Smythe, teacher-librarian Liz Loewen, and Winnipeg Police Insp. George Labossiere are surrounded by students from John Pritchard School.

“Teacher librarians in (River East Transcona School Division) have a variety of ways to inspire kids to read. At John Pritchard, we created a Human Library. We invited 19 guests that students could ‘check out’ like they would a book,” Loewen said.

Loewen focused on inclusion, and “wanted to offer ‘mirrors’ so that students could see themselves in the guests that we brought in, and ‘windows’ so that they could see other cultures and perspectives.”

I sat in (or eavesdropped from the hall) on many of the guests and was truly impressed by how engaged the students were with each and every human book.

Musician Sheena Grobb encouraged the music students to “write every day. Writing is fun, find what lights you up.”

Marathon runner Junel Malapad inspired students by talking about what motivated him to run across Manitoba and raise money for Siloam Mission.

Winnipeg Police Service inspector George Labossiere spoke about struggling in school in his small town, and how his teachers helped and inspired him to be the person he is. He encouraged the students to “believe in yourself and you can do anything you want to do.”

Winnipeg Police chief Danny Smythe loved the idea of “the living library, and how you get to talk to a person instead of reading a book.” Both police officers spoke about how their passion to help people led them to their profession.

“Maralee Caruso talked about her job and shared her journey into becoming a news anchor,” said Grade 6 student Aislin McAuliffe. “She taught us how to read teleprompts and she was so much fun.”

Student Halle Tollefson said community activist Mitch Bourbonniere inspired her to hold a mitten drive to help Winnipeg’s homeless next winter.

Teacher-librarian Liz Loewen and the staff at John Pritchard School would like to thank the following ‘human books’ who participated – Doug Speirs (former Winnipeg Free Press columnist and editor); Richard Beinert (rock enthusiast); Al Simmons (children’s entertainer); Terri Apostle (CTV News); Maralee Caruso (CTV News); Colleen Bready (CTV News); Karly Tardiff (The Dream Factory); Jackie Martin and Rosie (RETSD reading tutor and her therapy dog); Mitch Bourbonniere (Bear Clan Patrol); Meghan Malcolm (bookstore owner); Junel Malapad (marathon runner); Jordan Van Sewell (artist); Big Daddy Tazz (comedian); Tracy, Hannah and Marion (CNIB speakers and guide dog); Sheena Grobb (singer/songwriter); George Labossiere (Winnipeg Police inspector); Danny Smythe (Winnipeg Police chief).

Wendy Hrynkiw

Wendy Hrynkiw
East Kildonan community correspondent

Wendy Hrynkiw is a community correspondent for East Kildonan. Email her at

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