Kawartha Lakes public school gets grant from U.S. foundation to expand its classroom library

Teacher Megan Clements and her Grade 4 and 5 students at Dr. George Hall Public School in Little Britain receive $1,000 from Book Love Foundation

Teacher Megan Clements with her Grade 4 and 5 students on the last day of school at Dr. George Hall Public School in Little Britain. Clements and her students were awarded a $1,000 grant from the U.S.-based Book Love Foundation to purchase books to expand their classroom library. (Photo: Megan Clements)
Teacher Megan Clements with her Grade 4 and 5 students on the last day of school at Dr. George Hall Public School in Little Britain. Clements and her students were awarded a $1,000 grant from the U.S.-based Book Love Foundation to purchase books to expand their classroom library. (Photo: Megan Clements)

Grade 4 and 5 students at a Kawartha Lakes school are going to have a lot more books in their classroom library thanks to their teacher Megan Clements and a grant from a U.S. foundation.

Clements, who teaches all subjects for Grade 4 and 5 at Dr. George Hall Public School in Little Britain, submitted a successful application to the Book Love Foundation for a $1,000 grant.

A non-profit volunteer organization founded in 2012 by English teacher, author, and advocate Penny Kittle, the Book Love Foundation provides financial support so teachers in the U.S. and Canada can expand classroom libraries. Since 2013, the foundation has funded more than 330 classroom libraries across 47 states and provinces.

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In her grant application, which included a supporting video featuring her students and a letter from a colleague and a student, Clements — herself a lifelong reader — described the culture of reading at her school.

“At the heart of my teaching practice is incorporating student voice in everything we do,” wrote Clements, who worked as her school’s literacy lead last year. “So I truly hear them when they say, ‘our favourite art in our classroom is when you put books on display’ or ‘can we please have 10 more minutes to finish the chapter?’ during independent reading.”

She also explained how the pandemic has been a barrier to student reading, with virtual learning isolating students from their community of peers.

Teacher Megan Clements encourages a culture of reading among her Grade 4 and 5 students at Dr. George Hall Public School in Little Britain. She engages the students in organizing the books, displaying them, and choosing books with her for their learning goals and classroom endeavours. The students have created their own sign-up sheets to track a waiting list for the next most popular book.  (Photo: Megan Clements)
Teacher Megan Clements encourages a culture of reading among her Grade 4 and 5 students at Dr. George Hall Public School in Little Britain. She engages the students in organizing the books, displaying them, and choosing books with her for their learning goals and classroom endeavours. The students have created their own sign-up sheets to track a waiting list for the next most popular book. (Photo: Megan Clements)

“Having this grant would wake our students up from their dormant cocoons, reignite the passion for reading in the middle years of elementary school, and reinstate the drive to be readers and leaders,” Clements wrote. “With their wings spread wide, our kids will no doubt reinvent their self-perceptions to truly believe and see themselves for what they truly are, readers.”

The application included a letter of support from nine-year-old Sabastien, one of Clements’ students.

“Ms. Clements should be picked for this grant because she is passionate about books and always hungry for more,” Sabastien wrote. “We already have a great start to our library, but we still need more books to grow with us. We could use this grant to help us gain more knowledge about our history, our world, and how to be the best you can be!”

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To date, Clements has been using her own time and money to build the classroom library, and the $1,000 grant would give her the ability to purchase the most recent and relevant books for her students.

“I find that I am shopping for books at local thrift stores on the weekends to ensure that the kids are continuing to read and having books in their hands that are capturing their interest,” she wrote in her application. “I’d like more books that are related to disabilities, identity and LGBTQIA+, exploring body image and texts written in verse.”

“With our board welcoming many Syrian families and many Ukrainian refugees, I would like books related to immigration. Additionally, our board is so fortunate to have opportunities to walk down the path of reconciliation guided by so many Indigenous teachers. I would love to incorporate books related to the water crisis so many people experience around the world, in Canada, and even here in our home province of Ontario.”

Megan Clements, who has been a teacher for eight years, is herself a lifelong reader. Last year, she worked as the literacy lead for Dr. George Hall Public School in Little Britain.  (Photo courtesy of Megan Clements)
Megan Clements, who has been a teacher for eight years, is herself a lifelong reader. Last year, she worked as the literacy lead for Dr. George Hall Public School in Little Britain. (Photo courtesy of Megan Clements)

While Clements has a number of books she intends to purchase with the grant money, she is also involving her students in the book selection process.

“The kids were assigned ‘homework’ on their first day of holidays,” Clements tells kawarthaNOW in an email. “They are currently compiling lists to order the books, with the students’ voices (and) favourite books included in that order.”

For more information about the Book Love Foundation, visit www.booklovefoundation.org.