Brooklands School gifts 20,000 books to students

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This article was published 31/03/2021 (610 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Over the past decade, Brooklands School has distributed enough free books to its students to surpass the height of Winnipeg’s tallest buildings. Laid out, binding to binding, the books would reach nearly five kilometres, according to principal Rex Ferguson-Baird.

The K to 5 school, located at 1950 Pacific Ave. W, began gifting books to students to improve literacy rates in the community, he explained. Brooklands recently gave away its 20,000th book.

In an area where 16.7 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line — according to 2011 census numbers — and the nearest city library is 2.5 kilometres away, it’s difficult for many families to purchase and access literature.

Photo by Sydney Hildebrandt Shannon Siemens, a classroom and literacy support teacher (left), and principal Rex Ferguson-Baird, lead a book gifting program at Brooklands School.

“When you’re struggling to make ends meet, you’re paying your rent, you’re buying your groceries, and then maybe you’re getting on to clothes and other life necessities,” Ferguson-Baird said. “And often, books drop to the bottom of that list.”

Research shows that equipping students with books reduces the ‘summer slide,’ which is the tendency to fall behind during summer vacation, and boosts reading levels.

“Summer slide is a real thing,” said Shannon Siemens, a classroom and literacy support teacher. “It’s something that we see as teachers in June; we’ve taken our kids to a certain level of ability, and over the summer with less access to books and literacy experiences, we see a slide — so their skills regress.”

That leaves educators and students to play catch-up in the fall.

“That is time and work spent that we wouldn’t otherwise need to do if they had access to those literacy activities and books,” Siemens added.

The school provides approximately 3,000 books to children a year. Kindergarten and Grade 1 students are gifted new books every month as part of the Grow Your Library program. And every June, before kids are sent off for the summer, they get to pick from thousands of books laid out in the gym.

“It’s almost like a shopping trip,” Siemens said. “You get to pick 10 books that you want, self-selected, based on your interest.”

Owning books instills a sense of pride in students and improves connections between them and their family members and caregivers when they read together, she added.

The initiative wouldn’t be as successful without donations from generous community members and businesses, Ferguson-Baird said, including First Book Canada, a national charity that distributes books and educational resources to schools.

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