The federal election wasn’t the only hard-fought contest held across the country this October. Nine days before residents of Kugluktuk cast their ballots on October 19th, our town edged closer to a different kind of victory. With the help of Canadians, schools, educational institutions, boards of education, teachers, students, parents, and cyber-friends, Kugluktuk’s local elementary school came close to winning a large number of new books for their library, thanks to Indigo’s Adopt a School Program for literacy.
Teacher Nikki Wutke of Jimmy Hikok Iliharvik (JHI) wanted the elementary school to enter the competition because she had been part of Sanikiluaq’s successful bid a few years ago. This year, JHI’s staff supported the entry. According to Wutke, “[JHI] wanted to receive a much-needed revitalization with an insurgence of new books on all topics for all grade levels and to create a stock of giveaways for kids to take home.”
Libraries in Nunavut are under stress. Teaching schedules are busy and full of extracurricular activities and other duties, and quite often school libraries can become neglected, especially without a fulltime librarian. Meanwhile, as the Nunavut curriculum has changed, the resources at JHI have lagged behind. New and current material in many subject areas are desperately needed.
I left JHI as a principal at the end of the 1998-99 school year, and when I recently had a chance to browse through the library I noticed the books looking tattered and old. This is not due to the neglect of the teachers. Wutke assures me that the school is full of literacy resources; but the library fund is not sufficient to adequately revitalize the library. Although books with Inuit content are purchased through Inhabit Media, they need to be translated into roman orthography and the Inuktitut syllabics need to be covered using labels to make them useable.
The neighbouring Kugluktuk High School receives a bigger literacy fund because it houses the community library. However it does not carry reading material for the younger audience. JHI houses those resources.
Jimmy Hikok Iliharvik opens its doors twice a month for family literacy nights and a games night. It’s a popular, well attended event, but old books that are twice- or three-times read can become a little stale and are not very motivating. JHI also orders books for the children through book fairs and sales.
This is why we were so happy with the outcome of Indigo’s Adopt a School 2015 program. Although JHI didn’t get enough “adopts” to win the prize, it did receive 1699 books donated by supporters through the contest’s online platform. In addition, Indigo’s Love of Reading Foundation is helping JHI enrich its library by providing a donation of $7500.00 separate from the contest, equal to the value of the prize it would have won.
This event brought our community closer together for a great cause. Now that’s a win-win situation! Congratulations to the winning schools as well as all the participating schools and their great energetic staff. Quannaqpiaqqut ikayuqtuqtut iliharviptingnik (thank you very much to everyone for helping our school).
Photo credits: istockphoto/thomas-bethge; Edna Elias.