Students at North Ward School in Paris are teaching the world to read.
Piled high in the Paris elementary school’s library are more than 2,100 books that will soon be sent to schools in Uganda, Kenya, the Dominican Republic and Cuba.
“Every kid in the world has a right to learn and read,” said Grade 6 student Shawn Dempsey.
Students and teachers have been bringing in new and used books during the past month and have created a mini mountain of titles that will soon be shipped around the globe.
“They only really have school-related books, no stories,” said Grade 5 student Nicolette Stewart. “In stories, lots of people discover themselves. These books will help them discover who they would like to be.”
The initiative was inspired by former North Ward student Jaclyn Snook, who is currently in Uganda working for Watoto Child Care Ministries. Snook is helping care for and teach children at orphanages and schools who have been affected by poverty and war.
“She had been to a school and they have only 10 books for 133 kids,” said North Ward teacher-librarian Katie Conners. “We have so much here, so many resources, and I think it’s important that we give back.”
In a letter to students and their families, Snook expressed how important the book drive is to children in Uganda.
“I believe reading is a pathway to success, it is an amazing gift that can take children on adventures that they could only dream about,” Snook said. “In Canada, all children are privileged to have access to countless books, whether it’s from their bookshelves at home, their local libraries or their school libraries. However, this is not the case in other parts of the world. Many schools in Uganda do not have access to books like we do in Canada.”
The initiative is part of the school’s social justice program, teaching students about Uganda while empowering them to make a difference in the world, Conners said.
Snooks has been video chatting with each class at North Ward to give students a first-hand account of life in Uganda, while answering all their questions.
“This gets the kids thinking outside of themselves and it gets them thinking about how we think we have problems and then you hear about these kids who are dying to go to school,” Conners said. “They are dying to learn and even if they get to go, they have no resources.”
The students have made the project their own, bringing in their favourite old books and donating their allowances to help pay for shipping expenses. Since starting the book drive, Conners has been inundated with books, receiving upwards of 100 per day.
“People in Uganda don’t have a lot of books,” said Grade 3 student Emmajayne Gates. “It makes us happy that we are doing this for them.”
Initially, the books were to go to the Golden Age Community School in Mpigi, Uganda, but students have collected so many they are now able to send boxes of books to other schools in Uganda, as well as other countries in need of books.
“I’ve never seen a program in a school that’s had as much of an impact as this,” Conners said. “It makes me so proud of them. I’m completely inspired when I come to work.”
Cost to ship the books is expensive – about $600 per box of books. The school is accepting donations to help offset the cost and has already received $1,900 from local businesses. Call the school at 519-442-2311 to donate.