Kola SchoolKola, Manitoba 7 / 34 Books Given
Principal Kristi Wilson
My name is Jennifer Lesnar and as the Librarian and Administrative Assistant of Kola School, I would like to introduce myself and tell you a little bit about our special school and why we would love to be part of the Indigo Adopt A School Program.
Kola School is a very small rural Kindergarten to Grade 8 school. Our Kindergarten and Junior Kindergarten program is run through a private school called Kola Community School that was established approximately 15 years ago when Kola School came under review due to declining enrolment. The private school was established as a safety net by the community which is passionate to keep a school in our community. The two schools are located on the same grounds and work together to make the transition for the Kindergarteners into the bigger school a seamless one. We share our library with them and the teacher uses our books as needed in their classroom.
Our current enrolment is 29 students in Grades 1-8, 3 Kindergarten students and 2 Junior Kindergarten students. All but 4 of our students are bus students. Our students are divided into 2 multi-grade classrooms, Grades 1-4 and Grades 5-8.
Our community is comprised mostly of single income families working in agriculture and trades. The majority of families in our community have emigrated from Germany as well as Belize, Brazil, Russia, South Africa and the Philippines. This was the result of a successful Family Recruitment Committee that was established by the community with the hopes of bringing in new families. Our families have done an amazing job of integrating into Canadian life and learning to speak English. That has had its challenges over the years within our school with over half of our students considered to be ESL students.
Kola is a very small community with our population being approximately 200 people that would call Kola their home town. The town itself has approximately 75 people. We are 32kms from the nearest public library. This makes our small school library the only access to books for many of our families. For this reason, we also allow some local homeschool families to borrow our books as well. We try to utilize inter-school library loans within our division as much as possible, but with delivery being dependent on various division staff members, this isn’t always ideal.
My position is half time and I have library classes 5 times in a 6-day cycle. Due to the size of our school, our budget is quite small. Spreading that budget between Junior Kindergarten to Grade 8 interests can be a challenge. I find it difficult to keep our resource section more current and relevant. I try to make purchases that can help with classroom library material as those often come out of the pockets of our teachers. It is hard to decide whether to repurchase an old tattered favourite or purchase new adventures to fall in love with. We really have a school of readers, but there are a group that I describe as “voracious readers”. These are the ones who seem to have read everything we have and are constantly asking what else they can read. These are the students I have most in mind when I shop for books and love to see their excitement and enthusiasm for each new title.
Of course we love to promote literacy every day. Beside the creative things our teachers do for ELA classes, our students have free reading every day as well as D.E.A.R. time (Drop Everything And Read) and Library every other day. The younger class is read aloud to every day. Library classes are generally read alouds by myself, which can become a challenge with our age ranges. For the Grade 1-4 classes, we compromise with reading a few picture books and then a short junior novel that will last several classes. For the older class I generally choose a novel, although we often do short stories too. I like to choose books I feel they wouldn’t normally choose on their own and try to encourage them to try different genres or show them that it can be an entertaining way to learn about history and other cultures. Only 8 or our 29 students are girls, so this can also make it more difficult to find something to appeal to everyone. We participate in I Love To Read Month where we give the students challenges to help develop a love for literacy. Sometimes it’s to try different genres, but also to show that literacy is an important part of our everyday life. Something as simple as reading signs, menus or recipes to manuals/instructions, newspapers and more. Our division has a Battle Of The Books annually that we send teams to. The participants have to read at least 7 of the 10 books chosen by the committee and then they “battle” their knowledge of the books in teams against other teams from the schools in the division. We have seen our students struggle to complete enough books as we only have one copy of each book and that is the one time we are unable to borrow from our division libraries as their students are using them. Due to the size of our budget I will generally not purchase more than one copy of a book as it seems wasteful of the budget. There is a Step 2 Program for toddlers run by community volunteers that is held monthly in our school building. We are more than happy to share our books with them when asked and we are thrilled to see the love of reading instilled early.
Due to the dynamics of our community we do not hold book fairs and even our Scholastic book orders are not that successful. I feel the main reasons for this are income and family size. We are a small community and every fundraiser, etc. is coming out of the same pockets and that is why I feel our small school library is even more important than ever as it is the only access some students will have to books.
I have tried to really stretch our budget this year and take more advantage of borrowing books. We are thankful for every book that gets donated or that we are allowed to borrow, but it would be great to be able to keep some of those titles on our own shelves. I often purchase more paperbacks or cheaper books to stretch the budget, but even with a smaller student population, it leads to the question of which is better quantity or quality? Being able to borrow more books and revive and interest in older ones, it left a small amount of budget for the end of the school year, but we decided to use it to bring in an author this year as we have not done so for several years and feel that occasions like this are an awesome way of reigniting a passion for literacy. I am happy to spend it for this purpose, but it also shows you that the library budget is not strictly for books, but also occasions like this, supplies and some media.
I hope the above has given you a fair overview of our school and why programs like your Adopt A School are so incredibly helpful and exciting for a school like ours. As a librarian I, of course, have a wish list a mile long after every Library PD – Oh the possibilities! I love when I get to actually purchase some of those and then see the students enjoy them as much as I hoped they would.
I am going to share some pictures below of our library and our books to give you better idea of who we are and what our needs are. We at Kola School submit this application and are grateful for the possible opportunity to be adopted by this amazing literacy program!
Kola School Librarian/Administrative Assistant
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