A Nanaimo elementary school library has gone from impoverished to exemplary.
Fairview Community School’s library has a starring role as a success story in a new documentary produced by the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation.
Fairview made eight applications before it was chosen in 2016 as a recipient of $60,000 in foundation funding. A 35-minute documentary called Read Between the Lines, which examines financial needs of school libraries and related literacy issues, was filmed mostly at Fairview and was shown to students last week at the school.
Ariel Siller, executive director of the foundation, was on hand for Wednesday’s screening.
“It was really great to see the school in action and all the warmth and energy…” she said. “Going to the library and seeing the infusion of new books and the energy the students have around those books, it was fantastic.”
The money from the foundation, which comes from Indigo and its leadership and employees as well as customers and other partners, is being transferred to the school in three annual instalments of $20,000.
“As part of the grant application, the school presents their idea for how they would use the funds and then once they receive the funds, they use them in a way that’s consistent with the general goals of advancing literacy at their schools,” Siller said. “The teachers, the librarians, the principal, they really know their community best and we want to support them as talented educators in making decisions that they feel support literacy best in their community.”
The documentary, featuring interviews with authors Robert Musch and Neil Gaiman, argues that low literacy skills are a crisis in Canada. The film cites Conference Board of Canada statistics suggesting 48 per cent of adults have low literacy skills and points to resulting negative economic impacts.
The documentary suggests instilling a love of reading is particularly transformative in primary school years and Siller said teacher-librarians are so important as “custodians of these treasures” who connect students with books. She said the foundation sees across the country how school libraries are experiencing cuts to funding and staffing.
“There’s increased reliance on parental and private fundraising to supplement inadequate school library budgets,” Siller said. “So what you see is that there’s a real discrepancy between schools in more affluent communities where the bake sales and other fundraisers can really make up that gap in fundraising, and then we see other communities where there just aren’t the resources to fill that gap.”
The Indigo foundation has been able to present $25 million to 3,000 high-needs elementaries over the past 13 years and Siller said the goal is to continue to support school libraries and raise awareness about the challenges schools like Fairview face.
“I think that’s what’s great about the documentary, is that it captures both the uniqueness of the school but also the universality of the challenges that they’re facing,” she said.
The foundation recently announced $1.5 million in grants to 30 schools across the country. Alexander Elementary School in Duncan will receive $45,000 over the next three years. For more information about the foundation and to view the documentary, visit www.loveofreading.org.