Books in a birdhouse

Nathan Liewicki
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Prairie South rolls out new learning initiative

The Prairie South School Division (PSSD) has embarked on a new project designed to share the love of reading with local communities.

Dan Orcescanin, left, principal at Westmount Elementary School, picks up a "free little library" from Peacock Collegiate's construction and carpentry teacher Joel Robinson on Monday. Westmount is the first school in the Prairie South School Division to receive their free little library. 

“The whole idea of it is to bring awareness to the community that reading is not jut about what we do at school,” said Lori Meyer, PSSD superintendent of learning. “It's part of our lives and we should do it everywhere, wherever we are and wherever we can, to share the love reading.”

A birdhouse-like bookshelf, complete with a plexiglass door, is just the initiative PSSD has undertaken to expand the awareness of reading – in schools and in their respective communities.

Known as the “free little libraries” project, Prairie South enlisted the help of Peacock Collegiate’s Woods 20 class to help build 16 unique bookshelves for any School Community Council that requested one.

The free little libraries can hold an estimated 60-80 books in them, plus they’re not stationary.

“The whole idea is it's a community thing. It might or might not be on the school property,” said Meyer.

“In one of our community schools they might put it in front of the post office for a week and they might move it over to the park for a week, or move it in front of the week, or where've the action is taking place.”

Prairie South believes reading is one of the most fundamental skills for future learning and success. The free little libraries project was one way the division looked at strengthening the importance of reading.

The idea for the project became apparent in November 2013 when Joel Robinson, the teacher of Woods 20 at Peacock, designed and built a demo of what a free little library would look like.

“The board was really excited about it, so they asked us to build a few more. A few turned into quite a few,” Robinson told the Times-Herald.

Although he drew up the plans, Robinson’s class of eight students has been responsible for building the birdhouse-like structures.

Not only will the free little libraries project benefit PSSD schools and their communities, but it has also provided Robinson’s Woods 20 class with an opportunity to apply the cabinetry-making techniques they have learned into something practical.

They’ve already received requests to build 16, and there’s a chance more could be requested.

“Every school could put in an order for one and they could put in an order in three different ways,” said Meyer.

Schools could ask for a completed project that only needs painting and decoration, one that comes in pieces with building instructions and one that allows the project to be built solely relying on the construction plans.

On Monday, Westmount Elementary School was the first PSSD school to receive their free little library.

It still hasn’t been painted and decorated in the schools red, white and blue colours, but it will be before it’s unveiled to the students.

“Our school goal is to increase the reading comprehension for all of the students. With that, home support is extremely important,” said Westmount principal Dan Orescanin. “So we have the kids reading at home with their parents and because of that we wanted to extend that into the community and have all of our community on board.

As soon as he heard about the project, Orescanin knew Westmount wanted one. He submitted a request for one almost immediately and figured that’s probably why Westmount was the first school to receive their free little library.

“Getting books out there and making them easily accessible seemed like a really good idea and something the school council really wanted to do to support our learning goal,” said Orescanin.

Nathan Liewicki can be reached at 306-691-1256 or follow him on Twitter @liewicks

Organizations: School Community Council, Times-Herald, Westmount Elementary School PSSD school

Geographic location: Westmount

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