‘Operation Love Literacy’ wins Awesome Kingston January grant

Jennifer Ellis’ classroom at ESS. Provided by Jennifer Ellis.

Every month, Awesome Kingston gives away a $1000 micro-grant to a local project pitched by its creator. These days the pitch party is happening virtually, but the outcome is still the same. No-strings-attached money is given to the winner to help them develop the projects that Awesome Kingston thinks will keep Kingston awesome.

The first micro-grant of 2021 was awarded on Thursday, Jan. 21. Jennifer Ellis, a teacher at the Limestone District School Board pitched Awesome Kingston her Operation Love Literacy project. She wants to provide varied reading materials, including more BIPOC authors, for her students at Ernestown Secondary School in Odessa.

“As an English teacher, my goal is to create better readers, thinkers and communicators in my students by the end of each course,” Ellis shared in an email to Kingstonist. “I think many students have lost the joy of reading, and I want to spark that love for literacy in them.”

With no bookstore or public library in Odessa, and a closed school library due to COVID-19, Ellis feels students are relying on their classroom teachers for reading material this year.

“The majority of students at our school are white and many have limited experiences with those from different cultures, ethnicities and backgrounds. Reading diverse books can allow students to expand their worldview, develop more empathy and learn new things – without ever needing to leave the comfort of their own homes (which no one is allowed to do right now anyway!)” she said.

Thanks to the Awesome Foundation micro-grant Ellis said she was able to purchase 61 books from Bookland at 2800 Princess Street.

“I purchased the books in consultation with my colleagues. Our school runs something called ‘ESS Reads’: every day, regardless of the subject, students are to read independently in their class for at least 10 minutes. I often remind my colleagues in other departments, that I have an extensive classroom library and they are welcome to borrow books for their classes. This Octomester, I compiled a box of books for a science class to use.”

Ellis shared a bit of her school day routine: “I start every day in English with independent reading. Students can choose to read whatever book they want – and the only ‘school focus’ is on improving an aspect of their reading (i.e. stamina, quantity, vocabulary, pace, etc.)”

“I have spent more of my own money than I care to count buying books for my classroom library, and to give to students to keep, so they can have access to a variety of materials at different levels to suit their interests. Although we do have a department budget [for classroom materials], it is very limited and usually ‘tapped out’ pretty quickly,” she said.

“I often have students say to me ‘I don’t read’ and it becomes my goal to change their mindset around reading; I always tell my students it’s because they just haven’t found the ‘right’ book yet.”

Read the Operation Love Literacy pitch on the Awesome Kingston website.

How does Awesome Kingston work?

The trustee group is made up of community minded individuals who want to help make Kingston a more awesome city by volunteering time and money to Awesome Kingston. Each of the trustees provides $100 to make up the $1000 microgrant every month. The venues for the pitch parties are provided to the organization at no charge allowing them to put all the monies collected from the trustees into the grant. It is as simple as local people helping to get local ideas off the ground to keep Kingston Awesome!

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