University of Toronto Students Partner with Children’s Book Bank to Promote Reading at Regent Park – India Education | Latest Education News India | Global educational news
One story was about a young dinosaur facing his parents’ divorce, while another followed the trials of a worried mouse named Wemberly. A boy learned to deal with life’s challenges with the help of a porcupine, and a girl braved the move from Lebanon to Canada.
These are just a few of the stories read aloud by students at the University of Toronto and members of the Children’s Book Bank, a charity that provides free books and literacy support to children. and families in high-need areas of the city.
As part of the non-profit organization’s “Mental Health Story Time” program, more than 20 undergraduates produced YouTube videos featuring recorded picture book readings, accompanied by lessons for children with dementia. anxiety or sadness during the pandemic.
“From the start it was an incredible experience”, says Janine Cik, a third year student majoring in urban studies and human geography.
“This is something that I will think about for a long time.”
The Children’s Book Bank, which has been in Toronto’s Regent Park neighborhood for 13 years, was founded by a group of women who wanted all children to have access to books. Studies have shown that children are more likely to achieve a higher level of education when they have books at home.
The book bank aims to complement the library experience, which can be difficult to access for families who do not have a fixed address. In the display case of the book bank, no ID is required, and families and children are encouraged to select and keep books from a large inventory of titles.
The Children’s Book Bank also organizes storytelling hours and special events for community celebrations. But when the pandemic hit, much of the book bank’s programming had to be adapted.
“We had to pivot like everyone else,” says Loribeth Gregg, head of programming and volunteer engagement at the Children’s Book Bank.
So the book bank moved its programming online – and enlisted students from the University of Toronto to help it through the Student Life Center for Community Partnerships.
One of the projects undertaken by the volunteers at U of T was a blog “Bookworms” started by Gregg. Participants in the book bank’s Online Youth Reading program wrote blog posts and volunteers responded with encouragement and comments. They also tracked children’s reading progress and maintained a dashboard for their reading goals.
“Between summer and fall, (my daughter) posted a total of 89 posts,” says one parent in a written testimonial. “Every book she has read, she has read with enthusiasm, because she knows she will be rewarded with the sympathetic comments of the staff at the book club.”
Another major project was “Mental Health Story Time”, for which Cik served as the group co-host. She worked with a team of nine other University of Toronto students to promote the recorded readings on social media and to generate engagement on the Children’s Book Bank YouTube channel, where the videos are posted.
For Cik, who aspires to become a community planner, the volunteer work has allowed her to experience firsthand the benefits and challenges of running a nonprofit in the city.
“It has allowed me to understand the members of the community they serve,” Cik says. “I would really recommend it to any student.”
Throughout his involvement, Cik says he was often reminded of the courage of the organization.
“I’ve learned that community organizations are strong and resilient,” she says. “They don’t need saviors. The job we were trying to do was just to improve on what they have already done and how successful they have already been. “
For Mary ladky, executive director of the book bank, the not-for-profit organization’s collaboration with the Center for Community Partnerships is a perfect marriage of theory and practice.
“One of the things we were able to offer the students was a meaningful real-life situation,” says Ladky, doctor of education from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto.
This involved having students write a 30-page report with maps and analyzes of the neighborhoods that would benefit most from a physical book bank – as part of the Children’s Book Bank exploration on a possible expansion into other high-need neighborhoods. .
“It seemed like a real pleasure to them to be able to apply what they were learning in class to a real-life challenge,” Ladky says. “What are the qualities that make this low-income neighborhood, and why would a book bank be good for them?” It was up to the students to figure that out.
As the organization grappled with the limits imposed by the pandemic, students brought their technological know-how and diverse perspectives.
“It’s really nice to see that each student brings their own energy and perspective to the reading,” Ladky says. “In addition, young people are more comfortable with technology. It expands our capacity, our potential for influence, in a way that I hadn’t really thought about before.
The Children’s Book Bank is one of hundreds of community organizations that the Center for Community Partnerships at the University of Toronto works with each year. The center supports both community-based learning courses and after-school programs that allow students to engage with local groups and neighborhoods.
Yet while the programs offer important learning opportunities for students, Jennifer esmail, director of the Center for Community Partnerships, says the needs of each organization come first.
“We let the community partner lead the project with their own priorities,” she says.
As the Children’s Book Bank project officially ended last month, Gregg says several University of Toronto students have continued to volunteer with the organization.
“All of the students I have worked with are full of passion and drive,” she says. “I am really delighted to see young people who will soon be coming to work here.”