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A Rotary Gift of Literacy for Fraser River Middle School

reading5November 16, 2016 – It is a big help if you are a brand new school starting up a brand new “Learning Commons” to receive a $5,000 gift in support of literacy.

The donation from the Rotary Club of New Westminster to Fraser River Middle School this month means teacher-librarian Kristie Oxley can buy 2 copies of Gord Downie’s graphic novel, Secret Path.

That’s the story of the lonely journey of 12-year-old Chanie Wenjack, the Ojibway boy who died from hunger and exposure on the railway tracks after trying to find his way home from a residential school near Kenora, Ontario.  His death 50 years ago  led to national attention in Canada about the treatment of Indigenous children in  government-run boarding schools.

It means Oxley can also order I Am Not A Number by Jenny Dupuis and Kathy Kacer, and Sugar Falls by David Alexander Robertson. Both focus on stories about residential schools, an  important part of the revised school curriculum in B.C.

In addition, Oxley can bolster the school’s non-fiction collection in poetry, fine arts, technology, history and general sciences – while adding “high interest, current fiction”  to help students develop a passion for reading.

You can never have too many books!

For Fraser River Middle School Principal Debbie Jones, the offer from the local Rotary Club was “super exciting.”  It’s a boost to the school as it builds a new foundation of resources for what is now called a “Learning Commons”  –  a flexible, learner-centered space for collaboration, inquiry, imagination and play.

The move towards the Learning Commons concept emphasizes space where students and staff can create projects and share new understandings – and where teacher-librarians help build resources by collaborating on the projects they create.

For Rotary Club President Dave Vallee, the $5,000 gift is one way for one of the oldest Rotary Clubs in the province to contribute to the local community.

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Fraser River Middle School Principal Debbie Jones and teacher-librarian Kristie Oxley receive a gift in support of literacy from the Rotary Club of New Westminster.

Although  the nearly 90-year-old club  has just 32 members, it contributes some $17,000 for scholarships and bursaries to New Westminster Secondary School, while also supporting other local educational institutions.  In addition, the local club is actively involved in international projects, focusing on  Uganda. “We also support a free dental clinic in the community through Douglas College and the University of British Columbia’s School of Dentistry,” said Vallee, who noted the club welcomes new members (contact Vallee at 604-788-5453).

As for the emphasis on books, Vallee notes that while kids do spend a lot of ‘iPad time,’ books are still important.

“I am super happy about this,” said Jones.  “You can never have too many books!”