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De Beers celebrates a decade of Books in Homes
The program has distributed 28,000 books across the territory

Lyndsay Herman
Northern News Services
Published Saturday, April 21, 2012

De Beers Canada embarked on its 10th year of the Books in Homes initiative with a visit to Mezi Community School in Whati on April 11.

NNSL photo/graphic

Shelenda Flunkie sits outside the school gymnasium to take a closer look at her new books. - Lyndsay Herman/NNSL photo

Over the course of nine weeks, the Books in Homes program will be available in nine schools and allow each student and staff member to choose three books out of hundreds to take home. There were 1,000 books to choose from last Wednesday, for a student population of 155, meaning even the last class of the day to walk through the gymnasium had ample choice at every reading level and genre. Titles were also available for staff and community members.

The students were granted complete freedom, with only occasional pushes in the right direction, to choose whatever reading material interested them. Trudy Joosse and Melissa Noseworthy, employees for Yellowknife Book Cellar, were on hand to answer questions.

Some students didn't have any questions as they have been taking part in Books in Homes for years. Joseph Moosenose Jr., 21, had experienced it three times and said he has some great books in his personal collection because of it.

"What I like about the program," he said, "is that it gives us an opportunity to read more and newer books."

The idea of Books in Homes is to help students build a personal library, year to year, and generate momentum in their reading interest.

"Books in Homes gets the newest and latest books to these kids which is a huge motivator for reading," said teacher Jeremy MacIver. "Nobody wants to be reading what their parents read, it's not necessarily engaging now. They want to read the new things, like vampire books, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and smaller towns don't always get access to those kinds of books. Books are expensive so its hard to get them in the school.

"When they all know that (Books in Homes) is coming, there's a buzz. Once they have their books, the buzz is gone. Everyone is quiet because they're so intent on reading what they just picked out."

What the kids want is exactly what the organizers of Books in Homes try to provide. Yellowknife Book Cellar, which supplies all of the books for the program, prepares for the event all year, said Joosse. Feedback from the kids and teachers helps them to know what to bring in following years or to other schools. De Beers also contacts principals early in the year to see if there are any specific requests.

"They communicate with us about what they are looking for, like more aboriginal content, more wildlife content, what they'd like to see," said Grace Mackenzie, community liaison coordinator for De Beers Canada.

Terry Kruger, communications specialist for De Beers Canada, said the company tries to get as many employees from the mine involved as possible in community events like these.

"The (Snap Lake) mine is about 400 km from (Whati), 200 km from Yellowknife" he said. "It can be pretty isolated out there so we involve them as much as we can."

As part of this year's 10-year celebration, De Beers is asking students to sign a giant banner as they leave with their new books.

"We want all of the kids to sign the banner and then we'll hang it at the mine," said Mackenzie. "It's a really nice way of showing just how many kids we've reached."

Books in Homes expects to distribute 3,645 books this year. The next stop was Behchoko's Elizabeth Mackenzie Elementary on April 18.

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