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St. Michael receives grant to transform school library

How many books can you buy for $85,000? Thanks to the Indigo Love of Reading Literacy Fund Grant, St. Michael Catholic Elementary School is about to find out.

Over the last 13 years, the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation Literacy Fund has committed $25 million to schools across Canada who are "dedicated to building literacy but struggle to provide books that are relevant and engaging to their students with their limited budgets."

After addressing literacy needs within its school and outlining current programs in place, St. Michael was one of 30 recipients to receive a grant, which will be split equally between three years.

Overwhelmed, excited, and thankful are only a few of the emotions Principal Mary Jane Rossi expressed over the recent news.

Put simply, the grant will allow more books for children to put their hands on, she says.

As an Equal Opportunity School, St. Michael's population houses a diverse mix of talents, backgrounds, and abilities. However, a challenge that comes with this is funding resources that all children can benefit from.

Teacher Librarian Kathleen Malarczuk has plans to use the grant to update the current collection in the library as well as continue to build classroom libraries for every class.

"A lot of kids are reading at a similar level but there aren't enough books to go around," says Terry Szpirglas, the Reading and Recovery and Learning Resource Teacher. Because of this, children are re-reading the same materials, and can't advance their skills, resulting in a lack of interest.

Additionally, Special Education Resource Teacher Anna Boyle has proposed to use a part of the grant to target alternative education and support students with modified levels of curriculum.

St. Michael already has several programs in place, including a Tutor in the Classroom, to support at risk students through avenues like EQAO preparation, and the Neighbour to Neighbour Kids Can Succeed Reading Tutor Program, a daily program run by volunteers to assist Grade 3 students in literacy.

With the grant, these supports will not only continue to be made possible, but will provide students with more material and resources so they can enjoy reading and learning.

In preparation for the book makeover, Malarczuk has already begun pulling over 600 books from the library shelves, noting that some books date back to the 50's and are no longer relevant to today's student.

Having a teacher librarian is crucial in the school, adds Rossi, discussing Malarczuk's key role in bridging student literacy and success while making sure students are getting appropriate materials.

With a large refugee population, Malarczuk has even looked into books in Arabic to allow those students to hold onto their roots.

"With this grant, we want to cater to all needs," she says.

Schools interested in applying for the 2018 Indigo Love of Reading Foundation Literacy Fund Grant can submit their application at

From left, ESL Teacher Dora Figliola-Bozzo, Teacher Librarian Kathleen Malarczuk and Principal Mary Jane Rossi accepting the grant from Indigo.
From left, ESL Teacher Dora Figliola-Bozzo, Teacher Librarian Kathleen Malarczuk and Principal Mary Jane Rossi accepting the grant from Indigo.

St. Michael's Choir singing
St. Michael's Choir singing "St. Mike's Song" at Indigo Chapters in Ancaster.