Principal Jeff Duyndam and Vice-principal Sue Ottenbreit show off the $70,000 novelty cheque from Indigo books to Tillicum elementary school. (Photo submitted)

Love of reading pays off for Tillicum elementary

Saanich school receives $70,000 grant from Indigo to boost literacy

As part of an initiative by Canada’s largest book store chain, Indigo, a local school’s efforts at promoting literacy has just received a $70,000 boost to their efforts to create life-long readers.

“Indigo informed us about three weeks ago that we were one of the schools chosen by their foundation to receive funding to help promote our literacy efforts,” said Tillicum Elementary School Vice-Principal, Sue Ottenbreit.

“But we really had no idea how amazingly generous their support would be until they presented us with the cheque.”

Earlier this year, the school had heard of Indigo’s Love of Reading Foundation and had decided to apply for library funding. The application process was exhaustive, said Ottenbreit, and required the school to do a comprehensive audit of the school’s current reading resources and their literacy programs.

“Our staff are all very committed to literacy as a basis for all other subject areas and we had some great programs going within the school to promote literacy and the love of reading. Our librarian has done an amazing job with the very limited resources available to us in the past. I think we managed to show Indigo all the things that we do to motivate and support our readers, and they understood and appreciated our commitment to the children,” she added.

The Love of Reading Foundation has been around for more than a decade and, since 2004, has committed $28 million in funding to more than 3,000 high-needs elementary school libraries. The company estimates that their efforts have inspired almost a million young Canadians to develop a love of reading.

It all started when Indigo CEO, Heather Reisman visited schools across Canada and found that, while the teachers, librarians and administration of the schools were very supportive of literacy programs, they lacked the basic tools to truly meet their goals.

“She saw books that were tattered and outdated. On average, the books were at least 15 years old. In light of the fact that the world is rapidly changing in terms of technology and social norms and that wasn’t adequate to engage today’s children. Heather realized very quickly that there was insufficient funding for school libraries right across Canada, and that we could help to improve the situation,” said Ariel Siller, executive director for Indigo.

“Teachers were doing their best. in fact studies have shown that teachers paid for more than $20 million of books for their classrooms out of their own pockets. It’s incredibly generous, but it’s not the way it should be.”

Reisman’s Love of Reading Foundation has continued for the past 14 years and, this year, the foundation named 31 schools, nation wide, to receive funding; a level of giving that will result in an estimated 150,000 books going to the schools over the course of the next three years. More than 750,000 students will reap the benefits of the grants.

In addition, Indigo has partnered with First Book Canada to provide an additional 30 “runner-up” schools with 1,500 new books each; some 45,000 books nation-wide.

“We had this wonderful assembly at the school, ” said Ottenbreit. “We were shocked at the amount of money we received and to top things off Indigo brought in cases of books and every child in the school was able to pick a book to take home that day. This is an incredibly generous gift that will transform our ability to promote literacy and the love of reading.”


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