To read a book for the first time is to make an acquaintance with a new friend; to read it for a second time is to meet an old one. ~ Chinese Proverb
The magic of a great book is undeniable, often transcending time and place. Students at Crescent School in Toronto, Canada, a day school for boys from grades 3 to 12, recently embarked on a new outreach and service-learning project, curating a collection of their favorite French storybooks to share with TeacHaiti.
Crescent School was connected to TeacHaiti through the Rubicon Education Foundation’s Sister School Partnership Program. Their hope was simply to send pages of storied magic from students in Canada to students in Haiti.
The 173 students in the Lower School were all involved in the “Haiti Book Project.” The inspiration for the outreach project began as a tribute to the past librarian, Margaret Donnelly, on her birthday. Mrs. Donnelly, a much-loved and respected Head of Library for 25 years at Crescent School, passed away last year and is deeply missed by the community.
The project intersected with the Crescent School mission: Men of Character from Boys of Promise. Elizabeth Ford, the Lower School Resource Centre Teacher/Librarian, met with each class (there are two classes at each level from Grade 3 to 6) to connect the intent of the service-learning project back to the classroom.
Mrs. Ford asked the students what they knew about the earthquake that had affected Haiti in 2010. Most of the students were aware of the natural disaster and were able to discuss how massive an earthquake it had been, and the drastic effects it had across the island country.
In the 6th Grade classes, she introduced the project in a different way–she devided the class into groups and gave each group the task of finding an answer to a question. For example: What is the capital of Haiti? Where is Haiti on a map of the world? What does the Richter scale tell us? Once the students found those answers, Mrs. Ford read them a description of what the earthquake had done to Haiti.
“Then we talked about the types of books that children at a school in those conditions would like to read–for pleasure, to escape their situation, or to read about people in similar situations,” explained Mrs. Ford.
All students that wished to share a favorite book were asked to write down the titles of books that they loved to read, and the school used donations to buy the books in French for the students of TeacHaiti.
“Our Grade 3s love to read books by Geronimo Stilton. Our Grade 4s and 5s love the ‘Guinness World Records’ books,” said Mrs. Ford. “We have many students in all grades who love the ’39 Clues’ series,” she added.
The collection of Crescent School favorites is varied and includes a touch of whimsy with Calvin et Hobbes by Bill Watterson, a glimpse of an iconic Canadian pastime through Hockey au Canada: Les Contraires by Per-Henrik Gürth and the beautiful sea with 1001 Choses à Trouver Dans La Mer by Katie Daynes, to name a few.
As a personal touch, the Lower School students inscribed each book with a message. “We invited students to come and sign the books during a recess, and we had a dedicated group who wished to sign every one of the books,” said Mrs. Ford.
“Many of our students made a strong personal connection and wanted to donate their own books,” added Mrs. Ford. “I was impressed at their eagerness to help out. I know that our students would love to hear about how the books are received. We are looking forward to hearing about that very much as I’m sure that they’d like to know they’ve made a difference.”